Skip to main content

Full text of "The woman in white"

See other formats


Google 


This  is  a  digital  copy  of  a  book  that  was  preserved  for  generations  on  library  shelves  before  it  was  carefully  scanned  by  Google  as  part  of  a  project 

to  make  the  world's  books  discoverable  online. 

It  has  survived  long  enough  for  the  copyright  to  expire  and  the  book  to  enter  the  public  domain.  A  public  domain  book  is  one  that  was  never  subject 

to  copyright  or  whose  legal  copyright  term  has  expired.  Whether  a  book  is  in  the  public  domain  may  vary  country  to  country.  Public  domain  books 

are  our  gateways  to  the  past,  representing  a  wealth  of  history,  culture  and  knowledge  that's  often  difficult  to  discover. 

Marks,  notations  and  other  maiginalia  present  in  the  original  volume  will  appear  in  this  file  -  a  reminder  of  this  book's  long  journey  from  the 

publisher  to  a  library  and  finally  to  you. 

Usage  guidelines 

Google  is  proud  to  partner  with  libraries  to  digitize  public  domain  materials  and  make  them  widely  accessible.  Public  domain  books  belong  to  the 
public  and  we  are  merely  their  custodians.  Nevertheless,  this  work  is  expensive,  so  in  order  to  keep  providing  tliis  resource,  we  liave  taken  steps  to 
prevent  abuse  by  commercial  parties,  including  placing  technical  restrictions  on  automated  querying. 
We  also  ask  that  you: 

+  Make  non-commercial  use  of  the  files  We  designed  Google  Book  Search  for  use  by  individuals,  and  we  request  that  you  use  these  files  for 
personal,  non-commercial  purposes. 

+  Refrain  fivm  automated  querying  Do  not  send  automated  queries  of  any  sort  to  Google's  system:  If  you  are  conducting  research  on  machine 
translation,  optical  character  recognition  or  other  areas  where  access  to  a  large  amount  of  text  is  helpful,  please  contact  us.  We  encourage  the 
use  of  public  domain  materials  for  these  purposes  and  may  be  able  to  help. 

+  Maintain  attributionTht  GoogXt  "watermark"  you  see  on  each  file  is  essential  for  in  forming  people  about  this  project  and  helping  them  find 
additional  materials  through  Google  Book  Search.  Please  do  not  remove  it. 

+  Keep  it  legal  Whatever  your  use,  remember  that  you  are  responsible  for  ensuring  that  what  you  are  doing  is  legal.  Do  not  assume  that  just 
because  we  believe  a  book  is  in  the  public  domain  for  users  in  the  United  States,  that  the  work  is  also  in  the  public  domain  for  users  in  other 
countries.  Whether  a  book  is  still  in  copyright  varies  from  country  to  country,  and  we  can't  offer  guidance  on  whether  any  specific  use  of 
any  specific  book  is  allowed.  Please  do  not  assume  that  a  book's  appearance  in  Google  Book  Search  means  it  can  be  used  in  any  manner 
anywhere  in  the  world.  Copyright  infringement  liabili^  can  be  quite  severe. 

About  Google  Book  Search 

Google's  mission  is  to  organize  the  world's  information  and  to  make  it  universally  accessible  and  useful.   Google  Book  Search  helps  readers 
discover  the  world's  books  while  helping  authors  and  publishers  reach  new  audiences.  You  can  search  through  the  full  text  of  this  book  on  the  web 

at|http: //books  .google  .com/I 


P'^'S.-Vq  t  ^Cio 


1%^,  I'^^ss 


"N 


/ivy-) 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 


BY 


WILKIE  COLLINS, 

AVTHOB  OF  "  AHTONI8A,"  "  THE  DBAD  BBORET,"  XTO.  ETO. 


A    NEW    EDITION. 


LONDON: 
SMITH,  ELDEK  &  CO.,  15,  WATEELOO  PLACE. 

1871. 


->» 


TO 

BKYAN  WALLEE  PEOCTEB; 

t^OM    ONE   OF  HIS  TOUNOEB  BB£THR£N  IN  UTERATUBE, 
WHO  SINCERELY  VALUES  HIS  FKlFJn)SHIP, 
AND  WHO  GRATEFULLY   REMEMBERS 
IffANY  HAPFT  HOURS  SPENT  IN  HIS  HOUSE, 


PSEI'ACE  TO  THE  PBESENT  EDITION. 


"Ths  Wohak  ih  White"  has  been  received  witii  snch  marked  (avoar 
by  a  very  large  cirole  of  readers,  that  this  Yolume  scarcely  stands  in  need  of 
any  prefatory  introdncMon  on  my  part.  All  that  it  is  necessary  for  me 
to  say  on  the  sobject  of  the  present  edition — the  first  issued  in  a  portable 
and  popular  form-^may  be  summed  up  in  few  words. 

I  have  endeavoured,  by  careful  correction  and  revision,  to  make  my 
story  as  worthy  as  I  could  of  a  continuance  of  the  puUio  approval. 
Certain  technical  errors  which  had  escaped  me  while  I  was  writing  the 
book  are  here  rectified.  None  of  these  little  blemishes  in  the  slightest 
degree  interfered*  with  the  interest  of  the  narrative — but  it  was  as  well  to 
remove  them  at  the  first  opportunity,  out  of  respect  to  my  readers ;  and 
in  this  edition,  accordix^ly,  they  exist  no  more. 

Some  doubts  having  been  expressed,  in  certain  captious  quarters,  about 
the  correct  presentation  of  the  leg^  <* points"  inddental  to  the  story, 
I  may  be  permitted  to  mention  that  I  spared  no  pains — ^In  this  instance, 
as  in  all  others—to  preserve  myself  from  unintentionally  misleading  my 
leaders.  A  solictor  of  great  experience  in  his  profession  most  kindly  and 
carefully  guided  my  steps,  whenever  the  course  of  the  narrative  led  me  into 
the  labyrinth  of  the  Law.  Every  doubtful  question  was  submitted  to 
this  gentleman,  before  I  ventured  on  putting  pen  to  paper;  and  all  the 
proof-sheets  which  referred  to  legal  matters  were  corrected  by  his  hand 
before  the  story  was  publisdied.  I  can  add,  on  high  judicial  authority, 
that  these  precautious  were  not  taken  in  viun.  The  "law"  in  this 
book  has  been  discussed,  since  its  publication,  by  more  than  one  competent 
tribunal,  and  has  been  decided  to  be  sound. 

One  word  more,  before  I  conclude,  in  acknowledgment  of  the  Heavy  debt 
of  gratitude  which  I  owe  to  the  reading  public. 

It  is  no  affectation  on  my  part  to  say  that  the  success  of  this  book  has 
been  especially  welcome  to  me,  because  it  implied  the  recognition  of  a 


literary  principle  which  has  guided  me  since  I  firat  addressed  my  rea^ei^ 
in  the  character  of  a  novelist. 

I  have  always  held  the  old-fashioned  opinion  that  the  primary  object  of 
a  work  of  fiction  should  be  to  tell  a  story ;  and  I  have  never  believed  that 
the  novelist  who  properly  perfonned  this  first  condition  of  las  art>  was  in 
danger,  on  that  account,  of  neglecting  the  delineation  of  character — for  this 
plain  reason,  that  the  effect  produced, by  any  narrative  of  events  is  essen- 
tially dependent,  not  on  the  events  themselves,  but  on  the  human  interest 
which  is  directly  connected  with  them.  It  may  be  possible,  in  novel- 
writing,  to  present  characters  successfully  without  telling  a  story ;  but  it 
IS  not  possible  to  tell  a  story  successfully  without  presenting  characters : 
their  existence,  as  recognisable  realities,  being  the  sole  condition  on  which 
the  story  can  be  effectively  told.  The  only  narrative  which  can  hope  to 
lay  a  strong  hold  on  the  attention  of  readers,  is  a  narrative  which  interests 
them  about  men  and  women — ^for  the  perfectly  obvious  reason  that  they 
are  men  and  women  themselves. 

The  reception  accorded  to  "  The  Woman  in  White  "  has  practically  con- 
firmed these  opinions,  and  has  satisfied  me  that  I  may  trust  to  them  in  the 
future.  Hero  is  a  novel  which  has  met  with  a  very  kind  reception, 
because  it  is  a  Story ;  and  here  is  a  story,  the  interest  of  which— as  I 
know  by  the  testimony,  voluntarily  addressed  to  me,  of  the  readers  them- 
selves— is  never  disconnected  from  the  interest  of  character.  ''Laura," 
**  Miss  Halcombe,"  and  "  Anne  Catherick ;"  «*  Count  Fosco,"  "  Mr.  Fairlie,** 
and  *'  Walter  Hartright  ;*'  liave  made  friends  for  me  wherever  they  have 
made  themselves  known.  I  hope  the  time  is  not  far  distant  when  I  may 
meet  those  friends  again,  and  when  I  may  try,  through  the  medium  of 
new  characters,  to  awaken  their  interest  in  another  story. 


Barley  Street,  London, 

Fedruary,  186L 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 


2%e  Story  begun  by  Walteb  BABTRianr^  of  Cflemcnfa  Inn, 

Teacher  <f  Drawing* 

I. 
Tnis  is  the  story  of  what  a  Woman's  patience  can  endure,  and  what  a 
Miin's  resolution  can  achieve. 

It  the  machinery  of  the  Law  could  he  depended  on  to  fathom  every  case 
of  suspicion,  and  to  conduct  every  process  of  inquiry,  with  moderate  assist- 
auce  only  from  the  luhricating  influences  of  oil  of  gold,  the  events  which 
fill  these  pages  might  have  claimed  their  share  of  the  puhlic  attention  in  a 
Coun  of  Justice. 

But  the  Law  is  still,  in  certain  inevitahlo  cases,  the  pre^ngaged  servani 
of  the  long  purse ;  and  the  story  is  left  to  he  told,  for  the  first  time,  in  this 
place.  As  the  Judge  might  once  have  heard  it,  so  the  Header  shall  hear 
it  now.  No  circumstance  of  importance,  from  the  heginning  to  the  end  of 
the  disclosure,  shall  he  related  on  hearsay  evidence.  When  the  writer  of 
these  introductory  lines  (Walter  Hartright,  hy  name)  happens  to  he  more 
closely  connected  than  others  with  the  incidents  to  he  recorded,  he  will 
describe  them  in  his  own  person.  When  his  experience  fails,  he  will  retire 
Irom  the  position  of  narrator ;  and  his  task  will  he  continued,  from  the 
point  at  which  he  has  left  it  off,  hy  other  persons  who  can  speak  to  the 
circumstances  under  notice  from  their  own  knowledge,  just  as  clearly  and 
positively  as  he  has  spoken  before  them. 

Thus,  the  story  here  i>tesented  will  be  told  by  more  than  one  pen,  as  the 
story  of  an  offence  against  the  laws  is  told  in  Court  by  more  than  one  wit- 
ness— with  the  same  object,  in  both  cases,  to  present  the  truth  always  in 
its  most  direct  and  most  intelligible  aspect ;  and  to  trace  the  course  of  one 
complete  series  of  events,  by  making  the  persons  who  have  been  most 
closely  connected  with  them,  at  each  successive  stage,  relate  their  own 
experience,  word  for  word. 

Let  Walter  Hartright,  teacher  of  drawinsj,  aged  twenty-eight  years,  bo 
h«aid  first 


2  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITBl, 

II. 

It  was  the  last  day  of  July.  The  long  hot  summer  was  drawing  to  « 
close ;  and  we,  the  weary  pilgrims  of  the  London  pavement,  were  begin- 
ning to  think  of  the  cloud-shadows  on  the  corn-fields,  and  the  autumn 
breezes  on  the  sea-shore. 

For  my  own  poor  part,  the  fading  summer  left  me  out  of  health,  out  of 
spirits,  and,  if  the  truth  must  be  told,  out  of  money  as  well.  During  the 
past  year,  I  had  not  managed  my  professional  resources  as  carefully  as 
usual ;  and  my  extravagance  now  limited  me  to  the  prospect  of  spending 
the  autumn  economically  between  my  mother's  cottage  at  Hampstead,  and 
my  own  chambers  in  to\vn. 

The  evening,  I  remember,  was  still  and  cloudy ;  the  London  air  was  at 
its  heaviest ;  the  distant  hum  of  the  street-trafiic  was  at  its  faintest ;  the 
small  pulse  of  the  life  within  me  and  the  great  heart  of  the  city  around  me 
seemed  to  be  sinking  in  unison,  languidly  and  more  languidly,  with  the 
sinking  sun.  I  roused  myself  from  the  book  which  I  was  dreaming  over 
rather  than  reading,  and  left  my  chambers  to  meet  the  cool  night  air  in  the 
suburbs.  It  was  one  of  the  two  evenings  in  every  week  which  I  was 
accustomed  to  spend  with  my  mother  and  my  sister.  So  I  tamed  my  steps 
northward,  in  the  direction  of  Hampstead. 

Events  which  I  have  yet  to  relate,  make  it  necessary  to  mention  in  this 
place  that  my  fJEither  had  been  dead  some  years  at  the  period  of  whidi  I 
am  now  writing  ;  and  that  my  sister  Sarah,  and  I,  were  the  sole  survivora 
of  a  &mily  of  five  children.  My  father  was  a  drawing-master  before  me. 
His  exertions  had  made  him  highly  successful  in  his  profession ;  and  his 
affectionate  anxiety  to  provide  for  the  future  of  those  who  were  dependent 
on  his  labours,  had  impelled  him,  from  the  time  of  his  marriage,  to  devote 
to  the  insuring  of  his  life  a  much  larger  portion  of  his  income  than  most 
men  consider  it  necessary  to  set  aside  for  that  purpose.  Thanks  to  his 
admirable  prudence  and  self-denial,  my  mother  and  sister  were  left,  after 
his  death,  as  independent  of  the  world  as  they  had  been  during  his  lifetime. 
I  succeeded  to  his  connexion,  and  had  every  reason  to  feel  grateful  for  the 
prospect  that  awaited  me  at  my  starting  in  life. 

The  quiet  twilight  was  still  trembling  on  the  topmost  ridges  of  the 
heath ;  and  the  view  of  London  below  me  had  sunk  into  a  black  gulf  in 
the  shadow  of  the  cloudy  night,  when  I  stood  before  the  gate  of  my  mother's 
cottage.  I  had  hardly  rung  the  bell,  before  the  house-door  was  opened 
violently;  my  worthy  Itahan  friend.  Professor  Pesca,  appeared  in  th« 
servant's  place ;  and  darted  out  joyously  to  receive  me,  with  a  shriU  foreign 
parody  on  an  English  cheer. 

On  his  own  aoooont,  and,  I  must  be  allowed  to  add,  on  mine  also,  the 
Ph>fe8sor  merits  the  honour  of  a  formal  introduction.    Accidoit  has  mads 


TB1S  WaHAB   IH  WfiltE.  3 

nha  ihe  starting-point  of  the  strange  family  story  wMch  it  is  the  purpose  ol 
these  pages  to  unfold. 

I  had  first  become  acquainted  with  my  Italian  friend  by  meeting  him  at 
eertain  great  houses,  where  he  taught  his  own  language  and  I  taught 
drawing.  All  I  then  knew  of  the  history  of  his  life  was,  that  he  had  once 
held  a  situation  in  the  University  of  Padua }  that  he  had  left  Italy  for 
political  reasons  (the  nature  of  which  he  uniformly  declined  to  menticn  to 
any  one) ;  and  that  he  had  been  for  many  years  respectably  established  in 
London  as  a  teacher  of  languages. 

Without  being  actually  a  dwarf— for  he  was  perfectly  well-proportioned 
from  head  to  foot — Pesca  was,  I  think,  the  smallest  human  being  I  ever 
saw,  out  of  a  show-room.  Bemarkable  anywhere,  by  his  personal  appear- 
ance, he  was  still  further  distinguished  among  the  rank  and  file^of  mankind, 
by  the  harmless  eccentricity  of  his  charELCter.  The  ruling  idea  of  his  life 
appeared  to  be,  that  he  was  bound  to  show  his  gratitude  to  the  country 
which  had  afforded  him  an  asylum  and  a  means  of  subsistence,  by  doing 
his  utmost  to  turn  himself  into  an  Englishman.  Not  content  with  paying 
the  nation  in  general  the  compliment  of  invariably  carrying  an  umbrella, 
ind  invariably  wearing  gaiters  and  a  white  hat,  the  Professor  further 
aspired  to  become  an  Englishman  in  his  habits  and  amusements,  as  well  as 
in  his  personal  appearance.  Finding  us  distinguished,  as  a  nation,  by  our 
love  of  athletic  exercises,  the  little  man,  in  the  innocence  of  his  heart, 
devoted  himself  impromptu  to  all  our  English  sports  and  pastimes,  when- 
ever he  had  the  opportunity  of  joining  them ;  firmly  persuaded  that  he 
could  adopt  our  national  amusements  of  the  field,  by  an  effort  of  will,  pre- 
cisely as  he  had  adopted  our  national  gaiters  and  our  national  white  hat. 

I  had  seen  him  risk  his  limbs  blindly  at  a  fox-hunt  and  in  a  cricket- 
field  ;  and,  soon  afterwards,  I  saw  him  risk  his  life,  just  as  blindly,  in  the 
sea  at  Brighton. 

We  had  met  there  accidentally,  and  were  bathing  togetherc  If  we  had 
been  engaged  in  any  exercise  peculiar  to  my  own  nation,  I  should,  of 
course,  have  looked  after  Pesca  carefully ;  but,  as  foreigners  arc  generally 
quite  as  well  able  to  take  care  of  themselves  in  the  water  as  Englishmen,  it 
never  oocurred  to  me  that  the  art  of  swimming  might  merely  add  one  more 
to  the  list  of  manly  exercises  which  the  Professor  believed  that  ho  could 
learn  impromptu.  Soon  after  we  had  both  stmck  out  from  shore,  I  stopped, 
finding  my  friend  did  not  gain  on  me,  and  turned  round  to  look  for  him. 
lo  my  horror  and  amazement,  I  saw  nothing  between  me  and  the  beach 
but  two  little  white  arms  which  struggled  for  an  instant  above  the  surface 
of  the  water,  and  then  disappeared  from  view.  When  I  dived  for  him,  the 
poor  little  man  was  lying  quietly  coiled  up  at  the  bottom,  in  a  hollow  of 
shingle  looking  by  many  degrees  smaller  than  I  had  ever  seen  him  look 
before.    During  the  few  minutes  that  elapsed  while  I  was  taking  him  in- 


4  THE  WOUAN   IN  WHITE. 

the  air  revived  him,  and  he  ascended  the  steps  of  the  machine  with  my 
assistance.  With  the  partial  recovery  of  his  animation  came  the  return  of 
his  wonderful  delusion  on  the  suhject  of  swimming.  As  soon  as  his  chat- 
tering teeth  would  let  him  speak,  he  smiled  vacantly,  and  said  he  thought 
it  must  have  been  the  Cramp. 

When  he  had  thoroughly  recovered  himself  and  had  joined  me  on  the 
beach,  his  warm  Southern  nature  broke  through  all  artificial  English 
restraints,  in  a  moment  He  ever\vhelmed  me  with  the  wildest  expres- 
sions of  affection— exclaimed  passionately,  in  his  exaggerated  Italian  way, 
that  he  would  hold  his  life,  henceforth,  at  my  disposal — and  declared  that 
he  should  never  be  happy  again,  until  he  had  found  an  opportunity  of 
proving  his  gratitude  by  rendering  me  some  service  which  I  might  re- 
member, on  my  side,  to  the  end  of  my  days. 

I  did  my  best  to  stop  the  torrent  of  his  tears  and  protestations,  by  per- 
sisting in  treating  the  whole  adventure  as  a  good  subject  for  a  joke ;  and 
succeeded  at  last,  as  I  imagined,  in  lessening  Fesca's  overwhelming  sense 
of  obligation  to  me.  Little  did  I  think  then — little  did  I  think  afterwards 
when  our  pleasant  holiday  had  drawn  to  an  end — that  the  opportunity  of 
serving  me  for  which  my  grateful  companion  so  ardently  longed,  was  soon 
to  come ;  that  he  was  eagerly  to  seize  it  on  the  instant ;  and  that,  by  so 
doing,  he  was  to  turn  the  whole  current  of  my  existence  into  a  new  channel, 
and  to  alter  me  to  myself  almost  past  recognition. 

Yet,  so  it  was.  If  I  had  not  dived  for  Professor  Pesca,  when  he  lay 
under  water  on  his  shingle  bed,  I  should,  in  all  human  probability,  never 
have  been  connected  with  the  story  which  these  pages  will  relate — I  should 
never,  perhaps,  liave  heard  even  the  name  of  the  woman,  who  has  lived  in 
all  my  thoughts,  who  has  possessed  herself  of  all  my  energies,  who  has  become 
the  one  guiding  influence  that  now  directs  the  purpose  of  my  life. 

in. 

Pesoa's  face  and  manner,  on  the  evening  when  we  confronted  each  other  at 
my  mother's  gate,  were  more  than  sufficient  to  inform  me  that  something 
extraordinary  had  happened.  It  was  quite  useless,  however,  to  ask  him  for 
an  immediate  explanation.  I  could  only  conjecture,  while  he  was  drs^ging 
me  in  by  both  hands,  that  (knowing  my  habits)  he  had  come  to  the  cottage 
to  make  sure  of  meeting  me  that  night,  and  that  he  had  some  news  to  tell 
of  an  unusually  agreeable  kind. 

We  both  bounced  into  the  parlour  in  a  highly  abrupt  and  undignified 
manner.  My  mother  sat  by  the  open  window,  laughing  and  fanning  her- 
self. Pesca  was  one  of  her  especial  &vourites ;  and  his  wildest  ecoentri- 
<dties  were  always  pardonable  in  her  eyes.  Poor  dear  soul  I  from  the  first 
moment  when  she  found  out  that  the  little  Professor  was  deeply  and  grate- 
fully attached  to  her  son,  she  opened  her  heart  to  him  unreservedly,  and 


tHK  WOMAN  UN    WHITE.  5 

took  all  his  puzzling  foreign  peculiarities  for  granted,  without  so  much  af 
attempting  to  understand  any  one  of  them. 

My  sister  Sarah,  with  all  the  advantages  of  youth,  was,  strangely  enough, 
less  pliable.     She  did  fiill  justice  to  Pesea's  excellent  qnalities  of  heart ;  but 
she  could  not  accept  him  implicitly,  as  my  mother  accepted  him,  for  my 
sake.    Her  insular  notions  of  propriety  rose  in  perpetual  revolt  against 
Pesca*s  constitutional  contempt  for  appearances ;  and  she  was  always  mors 
07  less  undisguisedly  astonished  at  her  mother's  familiarity  with  the  eccen- 
tric little  foreigner.     I  have  observed,  not  only  in  my  sister's  case,  but  in 
the  instances  of  others,  that  we  of  the  young  generation  are  nothing  like 
BO  hearty  and  so  impulsive  as  some  of  our  elders.    I  constantly  see  old 
people  flushed  and  excited  by  the  prospect  of  some  anticipated  pleasure 
which  altogether  fails  to  ruffle  the  tranquillity  of  their  serene  grandchildren. 
Are  wc,  I  wonder,  quite  such  genuine  boys  and  girls  now  as  our  seniors 
were,  in  their  time  ?    Has  the  great  advance  in  education  taken  rather  too 
long  a  stride ;  and  are  we,  in  these  modem  days,  just  the  least  trifle  in  the 
world  too  well  brought  up  ? 

Without  attempting  to  answer  those  questions  decisively,  I  may  at  least 
lecord  that  I  never  saw  my  mother  and  my  sister  together  in  Pesca's  society, 
without  finding  my  mother  much  the  younger  woman  of  the  two.  On 
this  occasion,  for  example,  while  the  old  lady  was  laughing  heartily  over 
the  boyish  manner  in  which  we  tumbled  into  the  parlour,  Sarah  was  per- 
turbedly  picking  up  the  broken  pieces  of  a  teacup,  which  the  Professor  had 
knocked  off  the  table  in  his  precipitate  advance  to  meet  me  at  the  door. 

"  I  don't  know  what  would  have  happened,  Walter,**  said  my  mother, 
**  if  you  had  delayed  much  longer.  Pesca  has  been  half-mad  with  impati- 
ence ;  and  I  have  been  half-mad  with  curiosity.  The  Professor  has  brought 
some  wonderful  news  with  him,  in  which  he  says  you  are  concerned ;  and 
he  has  cruelly  refused  to  give  us  the  smallest  hint  of  it  till  his  fiiend 
Walter  appeared.** 

•*  Very  provoking :  it  spoils  the  Set,"  murmured  Sarah  to  herself,  mourn- 
fully absorbed  over  the  ruins  of  the  broken  cup. 

While  these  words  were  being  spoken,  Pesca,  happily  and  fussily  uncon- 
scious of  the  irreparable  wrong  which  the  crockery  had  suffered  at  his 
hands,  was  dn^ing  a  large  arfa-chair  to  the  opposite  end  of  the  room,  so 
as  to  command  us  all  three,  in  the  character  of  a  public  speaker  addressing 
an  audience.  Having  turned  the  chair  with  its  back  towards  us,  he  jumped 
into  it  on  his  knees,  and  excitably  addressed  his  small  congregation  of  three 
from  an  impromptu  pulpit. 

"Now,  my  good  dears,**  began  Pesca  (who  always  said  "good  dears," 
when  he  meant  "  worthy  friends  **),  "  Usten  to  me.    The  time  has  come — I 
recite  my  good  news — ^I  speak  at  last.*' 
"Heftr,  hear  I"  said  my  mother,  humoi^ring  the  Jok^. 


6  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITS. 

**  The  next  thing  he  will  break,  mamma,**  whispered  Sarah,  <<  will  be  the 
back  of  the  best  arm-chair." 

'^  I  go  back  into  my  life,  and  I  address  myself  to  the  noblest  of  created 
beings "  continued  Pesca,  yehemoitly  apostrophizing  my  unworthy  self, 
over  the  top  rail  of  the  chair.  "  Who  found  me  dead  at  ike  bottom  of  the 
sea  (through  Gramp) ;  and  who  pulled  me  up  to  the  top ;  and  what  did  I 
say  when  I  got  into  my  own  life  and  my  own  clothes  again  ?" 

"  Much  more  than  was  at  all  necessary,"  I  answered,  as  doggedly  as 
possible;  for  the  least  encouragement  in  connexion  with  this  subject 
inyariably  let  loose  the  Professor's  emotions  in  a  flood  of  tears. 

*'I  said,"  persisted  Pesca,  ^that  my  life  belonged  to  my  dear  friend, 
Walter,  for  the  rest  of  my  days — and  so  it  does.  I  said  that  I  should 
never  be  happy  again  till  I  had  found  the  opportunity  of  doing  a  good 
Something  for  Walter— and  I  have  never  been  cont^ited  with  myself  till 
this  most  blessed  day.  Now,"  cried  the  enthusiastic  little  man  at  the  top 
of  his  voice,  **  the  overflowing  happiness  bursts  out  of  me  at  every  pore  oi 
my  skin,  like  a  perspiration ;  for  on  my  faith,  and  soul,  and  honour,  the 
something  is  done  at  last,  and  the  only  word  to  say  now,  is — Bight-aU- 
right!" 

It  may  be  necessary  to  explain,  here,  that  Pesca  prided  himself  on  being 
a  perfect  Elnglishman  in  his  language,  as  well  as  in  his  dress,  manners,  and 
amusements.  Having  picked  up  a  few  of  our  most  familiar  colloquial 
expressions,  he  scattered  them  about  over  his  conversation  whenever  they 
happened  to  occur  to  him,  turning  them,  in  his  high  relish  for  their  sound 
.and  his  general  ignorance  of  their  sense,  into  compound  words  and  repeti- 
tions of  his  own,  and  always  running  them  into  each  other,  as  if  they  con- 
sisted of  one  long  syllable. 

"  Among  the  fine  London  houses  where  I  teach  the  language  of  my 
native  country,"  said  the  Professor,  rushing  into  his  long-deferred  explana- 
tion without  aD other  word  of  preface,  **  there  is  one,  mighty  fine,  in  the 
big  place  called  Portland.  You  all  know  wheie  that  is?  Yes,  yes  — 
course-of-course.  The  fine  house,  my  good  dears,  has  got  inside  it  a  fine 
family.  A  Mamma,  fair  and  fat ;  three  young  Misses,  fair  and  fat ;  two 
young  Misters,  fair  and  fat ;  and  a  Papa,  the  fairest  and  the  fattest  of  all, 
who  is  a  mighty  merchant,  up  to  his  eyes  in  gold — a  fine  man  once,  but 
seeing  that  he  has  got  a  naked  head  and  two  chins,  fine  no  longer  at  tho 
present  time.  Now  mind!  I  teach  the  sublime  Dante  to  the  young 
Misses,  and  ah !— mynsoul-bless-my-soul ! — it  is  not  in  human  language  to 
say  how  the  sublime  Dante  puzzles  the  pretty  heads  of  all  three !  No 
matter — all  in  good  time — and  the  more  lessons  the  better  for  me.  Now 
mind !  Imagine  to  yourselves  that  I  am  teaching  the  young  Misses  to- 
day, as  usual.  We  are  all  four  of  us  down  together  in  the  Hell  of  Dante. 
At  the  Seventh  Circle— but  no  matter  for  t^iat  s  aU  the  Circles  are  alike  tQ 


TH£  WOMAN    IN  AVUITA.  7 

Ibe  three  young  Miwaea,  fair  and  fat, — at  the  Seventh  CLcle^  nevertbelefls^ 
my  pupilB  axe  sticking  fast ;  and  I,  to  set  them  going  again,  recite,  expkin, 
and  blow  myself  up  red-hot  with  useless  enthusiasm,  when — a  creak  of 
lx)ot8  in  tho  passage  outside,  and  in  comes  the  golden  Papa,  the  mighty 
merchant  with  the  naked  head  and  the  two  chins. — Ha  I  my  good  dears,  I 
am  closer  than  you  think  for  to  the  business,  now.    Have  you  been 
patient  so  far  ?  or  have  you  said  to  yoiu'selves,  *  I>euce-what-the-deace  1 
Peflca  is  long-winded  to-nigbt  ?'  " 
We  declared  that  we  were  deeply  interested.    The  Professor  went  on : 
**  In  his  hand^  the  golden  Papa  has  a  letter ;  and  after  he  bas  made  his 
excuse  for  disturbing  us  in  our  Infernal  Begion  with  the  common  mortal 
Business  of  the  house,  he  addresses  himself  to  the  three  young  Misses,  and 
begins,  as  you  English  begin  eveiything  in  this  blessed  world  tbat  you 
bave  to  say,  with  a  great  0.    '  0,  my  dears,'  says  the  mighty  merchant, 
*  I  have  got  here  a  letter  from  my  friend,  Mr.         ■,  (the  name  has  slipped 
out  of  my  mind ;  but  no  matter ;  we  shall  come  back  to  that :  yes,  yes — 
light-all-right).     So  the  Papa  says,  *  I  have  got  a  letter  from  my  friend, 
the  Mister ;  and  he  wants  a  recommend  from  me,  of  a  drawing-master,  to 
go  down  to  his  house  in  the  country.'    My-soul-bless-my-soul  I  when  I 
beard  the  golden  Papa  say  those  words,  if  I  had  been  big  enough  to.  reach 
up  to  him,  I  should  have  put  my  arms  round  his  neck,  and  pressed  him  to 
my  bosom  in  a  long  and  grateful  hug  I    As  it  was,  I  only  bounced  upon 
my  chair.     My  seat  was  on  thorns,  and  my  soul  was  on  fire  to  speak ;  but 
1  held  tny  tongue,  and  let  Papa  go  on.    '  Perhaps  you  know,'  says  this 
good  man  of  money,  twiddling  his  friend's  letter  this  wav  and  that,  in  his 
golden  fingers  and  thumbs,  'perhaps  you  know,  my  dears,  of  a  drawing* 
master  tbat  I  can  rec<Hnmend  F    The  three  young  Misses  all  look  at  each 
other,  and  then  say  (with  the  indispensable  great  0  to  begin)  '  0,  dear  no, 
Papa  1    But  here  is  Mr.  Pesca        *    At  the  mention  of  myself  I  can  hold 
no  longer — the  thought  of  you,  my  good  dears,  mounts  like  blood  to  my 
bead— I  start  from  my  seat,  as   if  a  spike  had  grown  up  from  the  ground 
through  the  bottcnn  of  my  chair — I  address  myself  to  the  mighty  mer- 
chant, and  I  say  (English  phrase), '  Dear  sir,  I  have  the  man!     The  first 
and  foremost  drawing-master  of  the  world  1     Recommend  him  by  the  post 
to-night,  and  send  him  off,  bag  and  ba^age  (English  phrase  again — ha  ?), 
send  him  off,  bag  and  baggage,  by  the  train  to-morrow  1'    *  Stop,  stop,*' 
gays  Papa,  '  is  he  a  foreigner,  or  an  Englishman  ?'    '  English  to  the  bene 
of  his  back,*  I  answer.    *  Bespeotable  ?'  says  Papa.    '  Sir,'  I  say  (for  tnis 
last  question  of  his  outrages  mo,  and  I  have  done  being  familiar  with  him), 
'Sir  I  the  immortal  fire  of  genius  bums  in  this  Englishman's  bosom,  and, 
what  is  more,  his  &th6r  had  it  before  him  I'    'Never  mind,'  says  the 
gclden  barbarian  of  a  Papa^  *  never  mind  about  his  genius,  Mr.  Pesca.     We 
to't  want  genius  in  this  country,  imless  it  ia  accompanied  by  respecta- 


8  THE   M^OMAN   IN  WHITE. 

bility — and  then  we  are  very  glad  to  have  it,  very  glad  indeed.  Can  your 
friend  produce  testimonials— letters  that  speak  to  his  character?'  I  wave 
my  hand  negligently.  *  Letters  ?'  I  say.  *  Ha  I  my-soul-bless-mynsoul  ♦ 
I  should  think  so,  indeed!  Volumes  of  letters  and  portfolios  of  testi- 
monials, if  you  like  ?'  *  One  or  two  will  do,'  says  this  man  of  phlegm  and 
money.  *  Let  him  send  them  to  me,  with  his  name  and  address.  And — 
stop,  stop,  Mr.  Pesca — before  you  go  to  your  friend,  you  had  better  take  a 
note.'  *  Bank-note !'  I  say,  indignantly.  *  No  bank-note,  if  you  please, 
till  my  brave  Englishman  has  earned  it  first.'  *  Bank-note  T  says  Papa,  in 
a  great  surprise,  *  who  talked  of  bank-note  ?  I  mean  a  note  of  tiie  terms — 
a  memorandum  of  what  he  is  expected  to  do.  Go  on  with  your  lesson, 
Mr.  Pesca,  and  I  will  give  you  the  necessary  extract  from  my  friend's 
letter.'  Down  sits  the  man  of  merchandise  and  money  to  his  pen,  ink,  and 
paper ;  and  down  I  go  once  again  into  the  Hell  of  Dante,  with  my  three 
young  Misses  after  me.  In  ten  minutes'  time  the  note  is  written,  and  the 
boots  of  Papa  are  cieaking  themselves  away  in  the  passage  outside.  From 
that  moment,  on  my  faith,  and  soul,  and  honour,  I  know  nothing  more ! 
The  glorious  thought  that  I  have  caught  my  opportunity  at  last,  and  that 
my  grateful  service  for  my  dearest  friend  in  the  world  is  as  good  as  done 
already,  flies  up  inip  my  head  and  makes  me  drunk.  How  I  pull  my 
young  Misses  and  myself  out  of  our  Infernal  Kegion  again,  how  my  other 
business  is  done  afterwards,  how  my  little  bit  of  dinner  slides  itself  down 
my  throat,  I  know  no  more  than  a  man  in  the  moon.  Enough  for  me^ 
that  here  I  am,  with  the  mighty  merchant's  note  in  my  hand,  as  large  ag 
life,  as  hot  as  fire,  and  as  happy  as  a  king  1  Ha  1  ha  I  ha  I  right-right- 
right-all-right  !"  Here'  the  Professor  waved  the  memorandum  of  terms 
over  his  head,  and  ended  his  long  and  voluble  narrative  with  his  shrill 
Italian  parody  on  an  English  cheer. 

My  mother  rose  the  moment  he  had  done,  with  flushed  cheeks  and 
brightened  eyes.    She  caught  the  little  man  warmly  by  both  hands. 

**  My  dear,  good  Pesca,"  she  said,  **  I  never  doubted  your  true  affection 
for  Walter— but  I  am  more  than  ever  persuaded  of  it  now !" 

**  I  am  sure  we  are  very  much  obliged  to  Professor  Pesca,  for  Walter's 
sake,"  added  Sarah.  She  half  rose,  while  she  spoke,  as  if  to  approach  the 
arm-chair,  in  her  turn  ;  but,  observing  that  Pesca  was  rapturously  kissing 
my  mother's  hands,  looked  serious,  and  resumed  her  seat.  <'  If  the  &miliar 
little  man  treats  my  mother  in  that  way,  how  will  he  treat  me  ?"  Faces 
sometimes  tell  truth ;  and  that  was  unquestionably  the  thought  in  Sarah's 
mind,  as  she  sat  down  again. 

Although  I  myself  was  gratefully  sensible  of  the  kindness  of  Pesca's 
motives,  my  spirits  were  hardly  so  much  elevated  as  they  ought  to  have 
been  by  the  prospect  ox  future  employment  now  placed  before  me.  When 
.the  Professor  had  quite  done  with  my  mother's  hand,  and  wheD  X  had 


THE  WOMAN   15    WHITE.  S 

wannly  tbanked  him  for  his  interference  on  my  behalf,  I  asked  to  be 
allowed  to  look  at  the  note  of  terms  which  his  respectable  patron  had 
drawn  np  for  my  inspection. 
Pesca  handed  me  the  paper,  with  a  triumphant  flourish  of  the  hand. 
"  Read !"  said  the  little  man,  majestically.    "  I  promise  you,  my  friend, 
the  writing  of  the  golden  Papa  speaks  with  a  tongue  of  trumpets  for  itself." 
The  note  of  terms  was  plain,  straightforward,  and  comprehensive,  at  any 
rate.    It  infonned  me, 

First,  That  Frederick  Fairlie,  Esquire,  of  Limmeridge  House,  Cumber- 
land, wanted  to  engage  the  services  of  a  thoroughly  competent  drawing- 
master,  for  a  period  of  four  months  oeiiaiu. 

Secondly,  That  the  duties  which  the  master  was  expected  to  perform 
would  be  of  a  twofold  kind.  He  was  to  superintend  the  instruction  of  two 
young  ladies  in  the  art  of  painting  in  water-colours ;  and  he  was  to  devote 
his  leisure  time,  afterwards,  to  the  business  of  repairing  and  mounting  a 
valuable  collection  of  drawings,  which  had  been  suffered  to  fall  into  a  con- 
dition of  totel  neglect. 

Thirdly,  That  the  terms  offered  to  the  person  who  should  undertake  and 
properly  perform  these  duties,  were  four  guineas  a  week ;  that  he  was  to 
reside  at  Linuneridge  House ;  and  that  he  was  to  be  treated  there  on  the 
footing  of  a  gentleman. 

Fourthly,  and  lastly.  That  no  person  need  think  of  applying  for  this 
situation,  unless  he  could  furnish  the  most  unexceptionable  references  to 
character  and  abilities.  The  references  were  to  be  sent  to  Mr.  Fairlie's 
friend  in  London,  who  was  empowered  to  conclude  all  necessary  arrange** 
ments.  These  instructions  were  followed  by  the  name  and  address  of 
Pesca's  employer  in  Portland-place — and  there  the  note,  or  memorandum, 
ended. 

The  prospect  which  this  offer  of  an  engagement  held  out  was  certainly 
an  attractive  one.  The  employment  was  Ukely  to  be  both  easy  and  agree- 
able ;  it  was  proposed  to  me  at  the  autumn  time  of  the  year  when  I  was 
least  occupied ;  and  the  terms,  judging  by  my  personal  experience  in  my 
profession,  were  surprisingly  liberal.  I  knew  this ;  I  knew  that  I  ought  to 
consider  myself  very  fortunate  if  I  succeeded  in  securing  the  offered  em- 
ployment— and  yet,  no  sooner  had  I  read  the  memorandum  than  I  felt  an 
inexplicable  unwillingness  within  me  to  stir  in  the  matter.  I  had  never  in 
the  whole  of  my  previous  experience  found  my  duty  and  my  inclination  so 
painfully  and  so  unaccountably  at  variance  as  I  found  them  now. 

"Oh,  Walter,  your  father  never  had  such  a  chance  as  this  I"  said  my 
mother,  when  she  had  read  the  note  of  terms  and  had  handed  it  back  to 
me. 

**  Such  distinguished  people  to  know,**  remarked  Sarah,  straightening 
herself  in  her  chair ;  "  and  on  such  gratifying  terms  of  equality  too  1" 


10  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE, 

**  Yea,  yeg ;  the  tenns,  in  every  sense,  are  tempting  enough,"  I  replied, 
impatiently.  <^  But  before  I  send  in  my  testimonials,  I  should  like  a  little 
time  to  consider ** 

**  Consider  1"  exclaimed  my  mo<3ier.  "  Why,  Walter,  what  is  the  mat- 
ter with  you?" 

"  Consider  I"  echoed  my  sister,  "  What  a  very  extraordinary  thing  to 
say,  under  the  circumstances  !" 

"Consider I"  chimed  in  the  Professor.  "What  is  there  to  consider 
about  ?  Answer  me  this  1  Have  you  not  been  complaining  of  your  health, 
and  havo  you  not  been  longing  for  what  you  call  a  smack  of  the  country 
breeze  ?  Well  I  there  in  your  hand  is  the  paper  that  offers  you  perpetual 
choking  mouthfuls  of  county  breeze,  for  four  months'  time.  Is  it  not  so  ? 
Ha  ?  Again — ^you  want  money.  Well !  Is  four  golden  guineas  a  week 
nothing  ?  My-soul-bless-my-soul  1  only  give  it  to  ^ne — and  my  boots  shall 
creak  like  the  golden  Papa's,  with  a  sense  of  the  overpowering  richness  of 
the  man  who  walks  in  them  1  Four  guineas  a  week,  and,  more  than  that, 
the  charming  society  of  two  young  Misses ;  and,  more  than  that,  your  bed, 
your  breakfast,  your  dinner,  your  gorging  En^ish  teas  and  lunches  and 
drinks  of  foaming  beer,  all  for  nothing — ^why,  Walter,  my  dear  good  friend 
— deuce-what-the-deuce  1 — ^for  the  first  time  in  my  fife  I  have  not  eyes 
enough  in  my  head  to  look,  and  wonder  at  you  I" 

Neither  my  mother's  evident  astonishment  at  my  behaviour,  nor  Pesca's 
fervid  enumeration  of  the  advantages  offered  "to  me  by  the  new  employ- 
ment, had  any  effect  in  shaking  my  unreasonable  disinclination  to  go  to 
Limmcridge  House.  After  starting  all  the  petty  objections  that  I  could 
think  of  to  going  to  Cumberland ;  and  after  hearing  them  answered,  one 
after  another,  to  my  own  complete  discomfiture,  I  tried  to  set  up  a  last 
obstacle  by  asking  what  was  to  become  of  my  pupils  in  London,  while  I 
was  teaching  Mr.  Fairlie's  young  ladies  to  sketch  from  nature.  The  ob- 
vious answer  to  this  was,  that  the  greater  part  of  them  would  be  away  on 
their  autumn  travels,  and  that  the  few  who  remained  at  home  might  be 
confided  to  the  care  of  one  of  my  brother  drawing-masters,  whose  pupils  I 
had  once  taken  off  his  hands  under  similar  circumstances.  My  sister  re- 
minded- me  that  this  gentleman  had  expressly  placed  his  services  at  my 
disposal,  during  the  present  season,  in  case  I  wished  to  leave  town ;  my 
mother  seriously  appealed  to  me  not  to  let  an  idle  caprice  stand  in  the  way 
of  my  own  interests  and  my  own  health ;  and  Pesca  piteously  entreated 
that  I  woTLild  not  wound  him  to  the  heart,  by  rejecting  the  first  grateful 
offer  of  service  that  he  had  been  able  to  make  to  the  friend  who  had  saved 
his  life. 

The  evident  sincerity  and  affection  which  inspired  these  remonstrances 
would  have  iniluencod  any  man  with  an  atom  of  good  feeling  in  his  oonfi* 
(X)sitioiu    Though  I  could  not  conquer  my  own  imaocountable  perversity,  ] 


TH£  WOMAK   IN   WHITE.  11 

hid  at  least  virtue  enotigb  to  be  heartily  ashamed  of  it^  and  to  end  the  difr* 
enasioii  pleasantly  by  giving  way,  and  promising  to  do  all  that  was  wanted 
Dfme. 

The  rest  of  the  evening  passed  merrily  enough  in  humorous  anticipa- 
tions of  my  coming  life  with  the  two  young  ladies  in  Cumberland.  Pesca, 
inspired  by  our  national  grog,  which  appeared  to  get  into  his  head,  in  the 
most  marvellous  manner,  five  minutes  after  it  had  gone  down  his  throat, 
asserted  his  claims  to  be  considered  a  complete  Englishman  by  making  a 
series  of  speeches  in  rapid  succession ;  proposing  my  mother's  health,  my 
sister's  health,  my  health,  and  the  healths,  in  mass,  of  Mr.  Fairlie  and  the 
two  young  Misses;  pathetically  returning  thanks  himself  inmiediately 
afterwards,  for  the  whole  party.  **  A  secret,  Walter,"  said  my  little  friend 
confidentially,  as  we  walked  home  together.  **  I  am  flushed  by  the  recollec- 
tion of  my  own  eloquence.  My  soul  bursts  itself  with  ambition.  One  of 
these  days,  I  go  into  your  noble  Parliament.  It  is  the  dream  of  my  whole 
life  to  be  Honourable  Pesca,  M.P.  1" 

!rhe  next  morning  I  sent  my  testimonials  to  the  Professor's  employer  in 
Portland-place.  Three  days  passed ;  and  I  concluded,  with  secret  satisfac* 
tion,  that  my  papers  had  not  been  found  sufficiently  explicit.  Oa  the 
fourth  day,  however,  an  answer  came.  It  announced  that  Mr.  Fairlie 
accepted  my  services,  and  requested  me  to  start  for  Cumberland  imme- 
^tely.  All  the  necessary  instruotions  for  my  journey  were  carefully  and 
clearly  added  in  a  postscript. 

I  made  my  arrangements,  nnwillingly  enough,  for  leaving  London  early 
the  next  day.  Towards  evening  Pesca  looked  in,  on  his  way  to  a  dinner- 
party, to  bid  me  good-by. 

"  I  shall  dry  my  tears  in  your  absence,"  said  the  Professor,  gaily,  "  with 
this  glorious  thought.  It  is  my  auspicious  hand  that  has  given  the  first 
push  to  your  fortune  in  the  world.  Go>  my  friend!  When  your  sun 
shines  in  Cumberland  (English  proverb),  in  the  name  of  heaven,  make 
your  hay.  Marry  one  of  the  two  young  Misses ;  become  Honourable 
Hartright,  M.P. ;  and  when  you  are  on  the  top  of  the  ladder,  remember 
that  Pesca,  at  the  bottom,  has  done  it  all  1" 

I  tried  to  laugh  with  my  little  friend  over  his  parting  jest,  but  my 
spirits  were  not  to  be  commanded.  Something  jarred  in  me  almost  pain- 
ftilly,  while  he  was  speaking  his  light  farewell  words. 

When  I  was  left  alone  again,  nothing  remained  to  be  done  but  to  walk 
to  the  Hampstead  Cottage  and  bid  my  mother  and  Sarah  good-by. 

IV. 
The  heat  had  been  painfully  oppressive  all  day ;  and  it  was  now  a  close 
and  sultry  night. 
My  mother  and  sister  had  spoken  so  many  last  words,  and  had  begged 


12  THE   WOMAN  IN   n'HITE. 

me  to  wait  another  five  minutes  so  many  times,  that  it  was  nearly  midni^i 
when  the  servftnt  looked  the  garden-gate  behind  me.  I  walked  forward 
a  few  paces  on  the  shortest  way  back  to  London;  then  stopped  and 
hesitated. 

The  moon  was  Ml  and  broad  in  the  dark  blue  starless  sky ;  and  the 
broken  ground  of  the  heath  looked  wild  enough  in  the  mysterious  light,  to 
be  hundreds  of  miles  away  from  the  great  city  that  lay  beneath  it.  The 
idea  of  descending  any  sooner  than  I  could  help  into  the  heat  and  gloom  of 
London  repelled  me.  The  prospect  of  going  to  bed  in  my  airless  chambers, 
and  the  prospect  of  gradual  suffocation,  seemed,  in  my  present  restless  frame 
of  mind  and  body,  to  be  one  and  the  same  thing.  I  determined  to  stroll 
home  in  the  purer  air,  by  the  most  round-about  way  I  could  take ;  to 
follow  the  white  winding  paths  across  the  lonely  heath ;  and  to  approach 
London  through  its  most  open  suburb  by  striking  into  the  Finchley-road, 
and  so  getting  back,  in  the  cool  of  the  new  morning,  by  the  western  side  of 
the  Kegent's  Park. 

I  wound  my  way  down  slowly  over  the  Heath,  enjoying  the  divine  still- 
ness of  the  scene,  and  admiring  the  soft  alternations  of  light  and  shade  as 
rhey  followed  each  other  over  the  broken  groimd  on  every  side  of  me.  So 
Long  as  I  was  proceeding  through  this  first  and  prettiest  part  of  my  night- 
walk,  my  mind  remained  passively  open  to  the  impressions  produced  by 
the  view ;  and  I  thought  but  little  on  any  subject — ^indeed,  so  far  as  my 
own  sensations  were  concerned,  I  can  hardly  say  that  I  thought  at  all. 

But  when  I  had  left  the  Heath,  and  had  turned  into  the  by-road,  where 
there  was  less  to  see,  the  ideas  naturally  engendered  by  the  approaching 
change  in  my  habits  and  occupations,  gradually  drew  more,  and  more  of 
my  attention  exclusively  to  themselves.  By  the  time  I  had  arrived  at  the 
end  of  the  road,  I  had  become  completely  absorbed  in  my  own  fanciful 
visions  of  Limmeridge  House,  of  Mr.  Foirlie,  and  of  the  two  ladies  whose 
practice  in  the  art  of  water-colour  painting  I  was  so  soon  to  superintend. 

I  had  now  arrived  at  that  particular  point  of  my  walk  where  four  roads 
met — the  road  to  Hampstead,  along  which  I  had  returned ;  the  road  to 
Finchley ;  the  road  to  West  End ;  and  the  road  back  to  London.  I  had 
mechanically  turned  in  this  latter  direction,  and  was  strolling  along  the 
lonely  high-road — idly  wondering,  I  remember,  what  the  Cumberland 
young'ladies  would  look  like — when,  in  one  moment,  every  drop  of  blood 
in  my  body  was  brought  to  a  stop  by  the  touch  of  a  hand  laid  lightly  and 
suddenly  on  my  shoulder  from  behind  me. 

I  turned  on  the  instant,  with  my  fingers  tightening  round  the  handle  of 
my  stick. 

There,  in  the  middle  of  the  broad,  bright  high-road — there,  as  if  it  had 
that  moment  sprung  oiit  of  the  earth  or  dropped  from  the  heaven — stood 
Uie  figure  ot  a  solitary  Woman,  dressed  from  head  to  foot  iu  white  gannentB ; 


THE  WOMAN   IH   WHITE.  13 

her  face  bent  in  grave  inquiry  on  mine,  her  hand  pcfnting  to  the  dark 
doud  over  London,  as  I  faced  her. 

I  was  far  too  seriously  startled  by  the  suddenness  with  which  thia 
extraordinary  apparition  stood  before  me,  in  the  dead  of  night  and  in  that 
lonely  place,  to  ask  what  she  wanted.    The  strange  woman  spoke  first. 
**  Is  that  the  road  to  London  ?"  she  said. 

I  looked  attentively  at  her,  as  she  put  that  singular  question  to  me.    It 
was  then  nearly  one  o'clock.    All  I  could  discern  distinctly  by  the  moon- 
light, was  a  colourless,  youthful  face,  meagre  and  sharp  to  look  at,  about 
the  cheeks  and  chin ;  large,  grave,  wistfxilly-attentive  eyes ;  nervous,  un- 
certain lips ;  and  light  hair  of  a  pale,  brownish-yellow  hue.    There  was 
nothing  wild,  nothing  immodest  in  her  manner :  it  was  quiet  and  self-con- 
troUed,  a  little  melancholy  and  a  little  touched  by  suspicion ;  not  exactly 
the  manner  of  a  lady,  and,  at  the  same  time,  not  the  manner  of  a  woman 
in  the  humblest  rank  of  life.     The  voice,  little  as  I  had  yet  heard  of  it, 
bad  something  curiously  still  and  mechanical  in  its  tones,  and  the  utterance 
was  remarkably  rapid.    She  held  a  small  bag  in  her  hand :  and  her  dress 
— bonnet,  shawl,  and  gown  all  of  white— was,  so  far  as  I  could  guess, 
certainly  not  composed  of  very  delicate  or  very  expensive  materials.   .  Her 
figure  was  slight,  and  rather  above  the  average  height — her  gait  and  actions 
free  from  the  slightest  approach  to  extravagance.    This  was  all  that  I 
could  observe  of  her,  in  the  dim  light  and  under  the  perplexingly-strange 
circumstances  of  our  meeting.    What  sort  of  a  woman  she  was,  and  how 
she  came  to  be  out  alone  in  the  high-road,  an  hour  after  midnight,  I 
altogether  failed  to  guess.     The  one  thing  of  which  I  felt  certain  was,  that 
the  grossest  of  mankind  could  not  have  misconstrued  her  motive  in 
jspeaking,  even  at  that  suspiciously  late  hour  and  in  that  suspiciously 
lonely  place. 

"  Did  you  hear  me  ?"  she  said,  still  quietly  and  rapidly,  and  without  the 
least  fretfulness  or  impatience.  "  I  asked  if  that  was  the  way  to  London." 
"Yes,"  I  replied,  "  that  is  the  way :  it  leads  to  St.  Johns  Wood  and 
the  Eegent's  Park.  You  must  excuse  my  not  answering  you  before.  I 
was  rather  startled  by  your  sudden  appearance  in  the  road  ;  and  I  am,  even 
now,  quite  unable  to  account  for  it." 

"  You  don't  suspect  me  of  doing  anything  wrong,  do  you  ?  I  have  done 
nothing  wrong.  I  have  met  with  an  accident — I  am  veiy  unfortunate  iu 
being  here  alone  so  late.    Why  do  you  suspect  me  of  doing  wrong  ?" 

She  spoke  with  unnecessary  earnestness  and  agitation,  and  shrank  back 
from  me  several  paces.    I  did  my  best  to  reassure  her. 

*•  Pray  don't  suppose  that  I  have  any  idea  of  suspecting  you,"  I  said, "  or 
any  other  wish  than  to  be  of  assistance  to  you,  if  I  can.  I  only  wondered 
at  your  appearance  in  the  road,  because  it  seemed  to  me  to  be  empty  the 
Instant  before  I  saw  you." 


14  THE  WOMA.N   IN   WHTTK. 

She  tamecl,  and  pointed  back  to  a  place  at  the  junction  of  the  road  to 
London  and  the  road  to  Hampstead,  where  there  was  a  gap  in  the  hedge, 

**  I  heard  you  coming,"  she  said,  "  and  hid  there  to  see  what  sort  of  man 
you  were,  before  I  risked  speaking.  I  doubted  and  feared  about  it  till  you 
passed ;  and  then  I  was  obliged  to  steal  after  you,  and  touch  you." 

Steal  after  me,  and  touch  me  ?  Why  not  call  to  me  ?  Strange,  to  say 
the  least  of  it. 

•-  **  May  I  trust  you  ?*'  she  asked.  "  You  don't  think  the  worse  of  me 
Decause  I  have  met  with  an  accident?"  She  stopped  in  confusion ;  shifted 
her  bag  from  one  hand  to  the  other ;  8nd  sighed  bitterly. 

The  loneliness  and  helplessness  of  the  woman  touched  me.  The  natural 
impulse  to  assist  her  and  to  spare  her,  got  the  better  of  the  judgment,  the 
caution,  the  worldly  tact,  which  an  older,  wiser,  and  colder  man  might 
have  summoned  to  help  him  in  this  strange  emergency. 

"  You  may  trust  me  for  any  harmless  purpose,"  I  said.  **  If  it  troubles 
you  to  explain  your  strange  situation  to  me,  don't  think  of  returning  to 
the  subject  again.  I  have  no  right  to  ask  you  for  any  explanations.  Tell 
me  how  I  can  help  you ;  and  if  I  can,  I  will." 

**  You  are  very  kind,  and  I  am  very,  very  thankful  to  have  met  you." 
The  first  touch  of  womanly  tenderness  that  I  had  heard  from  her,  trembled 
in  her  voice  as  she  said  the  words ;  but  no  tears  glistened  in  those  large, 
wistfully-attentive  eyes  of  hers,  which  were  still  fixed  on  me.  "  I  havo 
only  been  in  London  once  before,"  she  went  on,  more  and  more  rapidly  ; 
"  and  I  know  nothing  about  that  side  of  it,  yonder.  Can  I  get  a  fly,  or  a 
carriage  of  any  kind  ?  Is  it  too  late  ?  I  don't  know.  If  you  could  show 
me  where  to  get  a  fly — and  if  you  will  only  promise  not  to  interfere  with 
me,  and  to  let  me  leave  you,  when  and  how  I  please — I  have  a  friend  in 
London  who  will  be  glad  to  receive  me — I  want  nothing  else — ^will  you 
promise  ?" 

She  looked  anxiously  up  and  down  the  road ;  shifted  her  bag  again  from 
one  hand  to  the  other ;  repeated  the  words,  "  WiU  you  promise  ?"  and 
looked  hard  in  my  face,  with  a  pleading  fear  and  confusion  that  it  troubled 
me  to  see. 

What  could  I  do  ?  Here  was  a  stranger  utterly  and  helplessly  at  my 
mercy — and  that  stranger  a  forlorn  woman.  No  house  was  near  ;  no  one 
was  parsing  whom  I  could  consult ;  and  no  earthly  right  existed  on  my 
part  to  give  me  a  power  of  control  over  her,  even  if  I  had  known  how  to 
exercise  it.  I  trace  these  lines,  self-distrustfully,  with  the  shadows  of 
after-events  darkening  the  very  paper  I  write  on ;  and  still  I  say,  what 
could  I  do? 

What  I  did  do,  was  to  try  and  gain  time  by  questioning  her. 

"  Are  you  sure  tnat  your  friend  in  London  will  receive  you  at  such  a 
Late  hour  as  this?''  I  said. 


THB  WOMAN  lit  WHITE,  15 

'  Qcdie  soro.    Only  say  yon  will  let  me  leave  you  when  and  bow  I  plooBO 
—only  say  yon  won't  interfere  with  me.    "Will  yon  promise  ?^ 

As  she  repeated  the  words  for  the  third  time,  she  came  close  to  me,  an<? 
bid  her  hand,  with  a  sudden  gentle  stealthiness,  on  my  bosom — a  thin 
hand ;  a  cold  hand  (when  I  removed  it  with  mine)  even  on  that  snltry 
night.  Eemember  that  I  was  yotmg;  remember  that  the  hand  which 
touched  me  was  a  woman's. 
"  Will  you  promise  ?" 
«  Yes." 

One  word !  The  little  familiar  word  that  is  on  everybody's  lips,  every 
hour  in  the  day.     Oh  me  I  and  I  tremble,  now,  when  I  write  it. 

We  set  our  faces  towards  London,  and  walked  on  together  in  the  first 
still  hour  of  the  new  day — ^I,  and  this  woman,  whose  name,  whose 
character,  whose  story,  whose  objects  in  life,  whose  very  presence  by  my 
side,  at  that  moment,  were  fathomless  mysteries  to  me.  It  was  like  a 
dream.  Was  I  Walter  Hartright?  Was  this  the  well-known,  uneventful 
road,  where  holiday  people  strolled  on  Sundays  ?  Had  I  really  left,  little 
more  than  an  hour  since,  the  quiet,  decent,  conventionally-domestic  atmo- 
sphere of  my  mother's  cottage  ?  I  was  too  bewildered — ^too  conscious  also 
of  a  vague  sense  of  something  like  self-reproach — ^to  speak  to  my  strange 
companion  for  some  minutes.  It  was  her  voice  i^in  that  first  broke  the 
silenoe  between  us. 

"I  want  to  ask  you  something,"  she  said,  suddenly.     **Do  you  know 
many  people  in  London  ?*' 
**  Yes,  a  great  many." 

**  Many  men  of  rank  and  title  ?"    There  was  an  unmistakeable  tone  of 
suspicion  in  the  strange  question.    I  hesitated  about  answering  it.       ' 
"  Somcy"  I  said,  after  a  moment's  silence. 

"  Many  " — she  came  to  a  full  stop,  and  looked  me  searchingly  in  the  face 
— **  many  men  of  the  rank  of  Baronet?" 
Too  much  astonished  to  reply,  I  questioned  her  in  my  turn. 
"  Why  do  you  ask  ?" 

**  Because  I  hope,  for  my  own  sake,  there  is  one  Baronet  that  you  don't 
know." 
•*  Will  you  tell  me  his  name  ?" 

**  I  can't — I  daren't — I  forget  myself,  when  I  mention  it."  She  spoke 
loudly  and  almost  fiercely,  raised  her  clenched  hand  in  th&  air,  and  shook 
it  passionately ;  then,  on  a  sudden,  controlled  herself  again,  and  added,  in 
tones  lowered  to  a  whisper :  **  Tell  me  which  of  them  you  know." 

I  could  hardly  refuse  to  humour  her  in  such  a  trifle,  and  I  mentioned 
three  names.  Two,  the  names  of  fathers  of  families  whose  daughtiers  I 
taught ;  one,  the  name  of  a  bachelor  who  had  once  taken  me  a  cruise  in  hit 
yachty  to  make  sketches  foi  him 


16  TUB  WOMAN    IK   WHITK. 

**  Ah  I  yon  donH  know  bim,"  she  said,  with  a  sigh  of  rolieL  '^  Afer  yoU 
a  man  of  rank  and  title  yourself  P 

"  Far  from  it.    I  am  only  a  drawing-master.** 

As  the  reply  passed  my  lips — a  little  bitterly,  perhaps — she  took  my  arm 
with  the  abruptness  which  characterised  all  her  actions. 

"  Not  a  man  of  rank  and  title,**  she  repeated  to  herself.  "  Thank  God ' 
1  may  trust  ^im." 

I  had  hitherto  contrived  to  master  my  curiosity  out  of  consideration  for 
my  companion ;  but  it  got  the  better  of  me,  now.** 

**  I  am  afraid  you  have  serious  reason  to  complain  of  some  man  of  rank 
and  title  ?*'  I  said.  "  I  am  afraid  the  baronet,  whose  name  you  are  un- 
willing to  mention  to  me,  has  done  you  some  grievous  wrong  ?  Is  he  tin 
cause  of  your  being  out  here  at  this  strange  time  of  night?" 

"  Don't  ask  mo  ;  don't  make  me  talk  of  it,"  she  answered.  "  I'm  not 
fit,  now.  I  have  been  cruelly  used  and  cmelly  wronged.  You  will  be 
kinder  than  ever,  if  you  will  walk  on  fast,  and  not  speak  to  me.  I  sadly 
want  to  quiet  myself,  if  I  can." 

We  moved  forward  again  at  a  quick  pace ;  and  for  half  an  hour,  at  least, 
not  a  word  passed  on  either  side.  From  time  to  time,  being  forbidden  to 
make  any  more  inquiries,  I  stole  a  look  at  her  face.  It  was  always  the 
same ;  the  lips  close  shut,  the  brow  frowning,  the  eyes  looking  straight 
forward,  eagerly  and  yet  absently.  We  had  reached  the  first  houses,  and 
were  close  on  the  new  Wesley  an  College,  before  her  set  features  relaxed, 
and  she  spoke  once  more. 

"  Do  you  live  in  London  ?"  she  said. 

'*  Yes."  As  I  answered,  it  struck  mo  that  she  might  have  formed  some 
iutention  of  appealing  to  me  for  assistance  or  advice,  and  that  I  ought  to 
spare  her  a  possible  disappointment  by  warning  her  of  my  approaching 
absence  from  home.  So  I  added  :  '<  But  to-morrow  I  shall  be  away  from 
London  for  some  time.    I  am  going  into  the  country." 

«  Where  ?"  she  asked.    "  North,  or  south  ?" 

«  North— to  Cumberland." 

"  Cumberland !"  she  repeated  the  word  tenderly.  "  Ah !  I  wish  I  was 
going  there,  too.    I  was  once  happy  in  Cumberland." 

I  tried  again  to  lift  the  veil  that  hung  between  this  woman  and 
uie. 

"  Perhaps  you  were  bom,"  I  said,  "  in  the  beautiful  Lake  country.'* 

**  No,"  she  answered.  "  I  was  bom  in  Hampshire;  but  I  once  went  to 
school  for  a  little  while  in  Cumberland.  Lakes?  I  don*t  remember  any 
lakes.  It's  Limmeridge  village,  and  Limmeridge  House,  I  should  like  to 
see  again." 

It  was  iny  turn,  now,  to  stop  suddenly.  In  the  excited  state  of  my 
curiosity,  at  that  moment,  the  chance  reference  to  Mr.  Fairlie's  place  of  rest- 


THR  WO^dAN  IN   WHITK.  17 

detice,  on  ttie  lips  of  my  strange  oompanioD,  itaggered  me  with  astonish- 
ment. 

"Did  you  hear  anybody  calling  after  us?"  she  asked,  lx)king  np  and 
down  the  road  afErightedly,  the  instant  I  stopped. 

"No,  no.  I  was  only  struck  by  the  name  of  Limmeridge  House-^ 
I  heaid  it  mentioned  by  some  Cumberland  people  a  few  days  since.*' 

*'Ah!  not  my  people.  Mrs.  Fairlie  is  dead  ;  and  her  husband  is  dead ; 
and  their  little  girl  may  be  married  and  gone  away  by  this  time.  I  can't 
say  who  lives  at  Limmerii^e  now.  If  any  more  are  left  there  of  that 
name,  I  only  know  I  love  them  for  Mrs.  Fairlie's  sake." 

She  seemed  about  to  say  more ;  but  while  she  was  speaking,  we  came 
within  view  of  the  turnpike,  at  the  top  of  the  Avenue-road.  Her  hand 
tightened  round  my  arm,  and  she  looked  anxiously  at  the  gate  before  us. 

"  Is  the  turnpike  man  looking  out  ?"  she  asked. 

He  was  not  looking  out ;  no  one  else  was  near  the  place  when  we  passed 
through  the  gate.  Tlie  sight  of  the  gas-lamps  and  houses  seemed  to  agitate 
her,  and  to  make  her  impatient. 

"  This  is  London,"  she  said.  "  Do  you  see  any  carriage  I  can  get  ?  I 
am  tired  and  frightened.    I  want  to  shut  myself  in,  and  be  driven  away." 

I  explained  to  her  that  we  must  walk  a  little  further  to  get  to  a  cab- 
stand, unless  we  were  fortunate  enough  to  meet  with  an  empty  vehicle ; 
and  then  tried  to  resume  the  subject  of  Cumberland.  It  was  useless. 
ITiat  idea  of  shutting  herself  in,  and  being  driven  away,  had  now  got  full 
possession  of  her  mind.    She  could  think  and  talk  of  nothing  else. 

We  had  hardly  proceeded  a  third  of  the  way  down  the  Avenue-road 
when  I  saw  a  cab  draw  up  at  a  house  a  few  doors  below  us,  on  the  opposite 
side  of  the  way.  A  gentleman  got  out  and  let  himself  in  at  the  garden  door 
I  hailed  the  cab,  as  the  driver  mounted  the  box  again.  When  we  crossed 
the  road,  my  companion's  impatience  increased  to  such  an  extent  that  she 
almost  forced  me  to  run. 

"  It's  so  late,"  she  said.    "  I  am  only  in  a  hurry  because  it's  so  late." 

**  I  can't  take  you,  sir,  if  you're  not  going  towards  Tottenham-court-road," 
sjud  the  driver,  civilly,  when  I  opened  the  cab  door.  "  My  horse  is  dead 
beat,  and  I  can't  get  him  no  further  than  the  stable." 

**  Yes,  yes.  That  will  do  for  me.  Fm  going  that  way — Fm  going  that 
way."  She  spoke  with  breathless  eagerness,  and  pressed  by  me  into 
the  cab. 

I  had  assured  myself  that  the  man  was  sober  as  well  as  civil,  before  I 
let  Jier  enter  the  vehicle.  And  now,  when  she  was  seated  inside,  I 
entreated  her  to  let  me  see  her  set  down  safely  at  her  destination. 

**No,  no,  no,"  she  said,  vehemently.  "  Fm  quite  safe,  and  quite  happy 
now.  If  you  are  a  gentleman,  remember  your  promise.  Let  him  drive 
on,  till  I  stop  him.     Thank  you— oh !  thank  you,  thank  you  I" 


18  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

My  hand  was  on  the  cab  door.  She  caught  it  in  hers,  kissed  ii^  and 
pushed  it  away.  The  cab  drove  off  at  the  same  moment— I  started  into 
the  road,  with  some  vague  idea  of  stopping  it  again,  I  hardly  knew  why — 
hesitated  from  dread  of  frightening  and  distressing  her — called,  at  last,  but 
not  loudly  enough  to  attract  the  driver*s  attention.  The  sound  of  the 
wheels  grew  fainter  in  the  distance — ^the  cab  melted  into  the  black  shadows 
on  the  road — ^the  woman  in  white  was  gone. 

Ten  minutes,  or  more,  had  passed.  I  was  still  on  the  same  side  of  the 
way ;  now  mechanically  walking  forward  a  few  paces ;  now  stopping  again 
absently.  At  one  moment,  I  found  myseK  doubting  the  reality  of  my  own 
adventure ;  at  another,  I  was  perplexed  and  distressed  by  an  uneasy  sense 
of  having  done  wrong,  which  yet  left  me  confusedly  ignoraat  of  how  I  could 
have  done  right.  I  hardly  knew  where  I  was  going,  or  what  I  meant  to  do 
next ;  I  was  conscious  of  nothing  but  the  confusion  of  my  own  thoughts, 
when  I  was  abruptly  recalled  to  myself — awakened  I  might  almost  say — 
by  the  sound  of  rapidly  approaching  wheels  close  behind  me.    . 

I  was  on  the  dark  side  of  the  road,  in  the  thick  shadow  of  some  garden 
trees,  when  I  stopped  to  look  round.  On  the  opposite,  and  lighter  side  of 
the  way,  a  short  distance  below  me,  a  policeman  was  strolling  along  in 
the  direction  of  the  Begent's  Park. 

The  carriage  passed  me— an  open  chaise  driven  by  two  men. 

**  Stop  1"  cried  one.    "  There's  a  policeman.    Let's  ask  him." 

The  horse  was  instantly  pulled  up,  a  few  yards  beyond  the  dark  place 
where  I  stood. 

"  Policeman  1"  cried  the  first  speaker.  **  Have  you  seen  a  woman  pass 
this  way  ?" 

**  What  sort  of  woman,  sir  ?" 

"  A  woman  in  a  lavender-coloured  gown — ^ 

**  No,  no,"  interposed  the  second  man.  **  The  clothes  we  gave  her  were 
found  on  her  bed.  She  must  have  gone  away  in  the  clothes  she  wore  when 
she  came  to  us.    In  white,  policeman.    A  woman  in  white." 

"  I  haven't  seen  her,  sir." 

**  H  you,  or  any  of  your  men  meet  with  the  woman,  stop  her,  and  send 
her  in  careful  keeping  to  that  address.  Ill  pay  all  expenses,  and  a  fair 
reward  into  the  bargain." 

The  policeman  looked  at  the  card  that  was  handed  down  to  him. 

"  Why  are  we  to  stop  her,  sir  ?    What  has  she  done  ?" 

**  Done  1  She  has  escaped  from  my  Asylum.  Don't  foxget :  a  woman 
in  white.    Drive  on." 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITB.  19 

V. 

"  She  has  escaped  from  my  Asylum !" 

I  cannot  say  with  trutJi  that  the  terrible  mferenoe  which  those  words 
suggested  flashed  upon  me  like  a  new  revelation.  Some  of  the  strange 
questions  put  to  me  by  the  woman  in  white,  after  my  ill-considered 
promise  to  leave  her  free  to  act  as  she  pleased,  had  suggested  the  conclusion 
either  that  she  was  naturally  flighty  and  imsettled,  or  that  some  recent 
shock  of  terror  had  disturbed  the  balance  of  her  faculties.  But  the  idea  of 
absolute  insanity  which  we  all  associate  with  the  very  name  of  an  Asylum, 
bad,  I  can  honestly  declare,  never  occurred  to  me,  in  connexion  with  her. 
I  had  seen  nothing,  in  her  language  or  her  actions,  to  justify  it  at  the  time ; 
and,  even  with  the  new  light  thrown  on  her  by  the  words  which  the  stranger 
Itad  addressed  to  the  policeman,  I  could  see  nothing  to  justify  it  now. 

What  had  I  done  ?  Assisted  the  victim  of  the  most  horrible  of  all 
false  imprisonments  to  escape ;  or  cast  loose  on  the  wide  world  of  London 
an  unfortunate  creature,  whose  actions  it  was  my  duty,  and  every  man's 
duty,  mercifully  to  control  ?  I  turned  sick  at  hesat  when  the  question  oc- 
curred to  me,  and  when  I  felt  self-reproachfully  that  it  was  asked  too  late. 

In  the  disturbed  state  of  my  mind,  it  was  useless  to  think  of  going  to 
bed,  when  I  at  last  got  back  to  my  chambers  in  Clement's  Inn.  Before 
many  hours  dapsed  it  would  be  necessary  to  start  on  my  journey  to  Cum- 
berland. I  sat  down  and  tried,  first  to  sketch,  then  to  read — ^but  the 
woman  in  white  got  between  me  and  my  pencil,  between  me  and  my  book. 
Had  the  forlorn  creature  come  to  any  harm  ?  That  was  my  first  thought, 
though  I  shrank  selfishly  from  confronting  it.  Other  thoughts  followed,  on 
which  it  was  less  harrowing  to  dwelL  Where  had  she  stopped  the  cab  ? 
What  had  become  of  her  now  ?  Had  she  been  traced  and  captured  by  the 
men  in  the  chaise?  Or  was  she  still  capable  of  controlling  her  own 
actions ;  and  were  we  two  following  our  widely-parted  roads  towards  one 
point  in  the  mysterious  friture,  at  which  we  were  to  meet  once  more  ? 

It  was  a  reli^  when  the  hour  came  to  lock  my  door,  to  bid  fsirewell  to 
London  pursuits,  London  pupils,  and  London  friends,  and  to  be  in  move- 
ment again  towards  new  interests  and  a  new  Ufe.  Even  the  bustle  and 
concision  at  the  railway  terminus,  so  wearisome  and  bewildering  at  other 
tunes,  roused  me  and  did  me  good> 

My  travelling  instructions  directed  me  to  go  to  Carlisle,  and  then  -vo 
diverge  by  a  branch  railway  whieh  ran  in  the  direction  of  the  coast.  As  a 
misfortune  to  b^in  with,  our  engine  broke  down  between  Lancaster  and 
Carlisle.  The  delay  occasioned  by  this  accident  caused  me  to  be  too  late 
for  the  branch  train,  by  which  I  was  to  have  gone  on  immediately.  I  had 
to  wait  some  hours ;  and  when  a  later  train  finally  deposited  me  at  the 
nearest  station  to  Limmeridge  House,  it  was  past  ten,  and  the  night  was  so 


20  THE  WOMAN  IN  WH1T£. 

dark  that  I  could  hardly  see  my  way  to  the  pony-chaise  which  Mr.  Fairlie 
had  ordered  to  be  in  WIdting  for  me. 

The  driver  was  evidently  discomposed  by  the  lateness  of  my  arrivaL 
He  was  in  that  state  of  Ughly-respectful  sulkiness  which  is  peculiar  to 
English  servants.  We  drove  away  slowly  through  the  darkness  in  perfect 
silence.  The  roads  were  bad,  and  the  dense  obscurity  of  the  night  increased 
the  difficulty  of  getting  oyer  the  ground  quickly.  It  was,  by  my  watch, 
nearly  an  hour  and  a  half  from  the  time  of  our  leaving  the  station  before 
I  heard  the  sound  of  the  sea  in  the  distance,  and  the  crunch  of  our  wheels 
on  a  smooth  gravel  drive.  We  had  passed  one  gate  before  entering  the 
drive,  and  we  passed  another  before  we  drew  up  at  the  house.  I  was  re- 
ceived by  a  soleniii  man-servant  out  of  livery,  was  informed  that  the 
family  had  retired  for  the  night,  and  was  then  led  into  a  large  and  lofty 
room  whore  my  supper  was  awaiting  me,  in  a  forlorn  manner,  at  one  ex- 
tremity of  a  lonesome  mahogany  wilderness  of  dining-table. 

I  was  too  tired  and  out  of  spirits  to  eat  or  drink  much,  especially  with 
the  solemn  servant  waiting  on  me  as  elaborately  as  if  a  small  dinner-party 
had  arrived  at  the  house  instead  of  a  solitary  man.  In  a  quarter  of  an 
hour  I  was  ready  to  be  taken  up  to  my  bedchamber.  The  solemn  servant 
conducted  me  into  a  prettily  furnished  room — said,  ''Breakfiast  at  nine 
o'clock,  sir  " — looked  all  round  him  to  see  that  everything  was  in  its  proper 
place — and  noiselessly  withdrew. 

"  What  shall  I  see  in  my  dreams  to-night  ?"  I  thought  to  myself,  as  I 
put  out  the  candle  ;  'Hho  woman  in  white?  or  the  unknown  inhabitants 
of  this  Cumberland  mansion?"  It  was  a  strange  sensation  to  be  sleeping 
in  the  house,  Uke  a  friend  of  tiie  family,  and  yet  not  to  know  one  of  the 
'nmates,  even  by  sight ! 

VI. 
When  I  rose  the  next  morning  and  drew  up  my  blind,  the  sea  opened 
before  me  joyously  under  the  broad  August  sunlight,  and  the  distant  coast 
of  Scotland  fringed  the  horizon  with  its  lines  of  melting  blue. 

The  view  was  such  a  surprise,  and  such  a  change  to  me,  after  my  weary 
London  experience  of  brick  and  mortar  landscape,  that  I  seemed  to  burst 
into  a  new  life  and  a  new  set  of  thoughts  the  moment  I  looked  at  it.  A 
confused  sensation  of  having  suddenly  lost  my  familiarity  with  the  past, 
without  acquiring  any  additional  clearness  of  idea  in  reference  to  the  present 
or  the  future,  took  possession  of  my  mind.  Circumstances  that  were  b»ut 
a  few  days  old,  faded  back  in  my  memory,  as  if  they  had  happened  months 
and  months  since.  Pesca's  quaint  announcement  of  the  means  by  which 
he  had  procured  me  my  present  employment ;  the  farewell  evening  I  had 
passed  with  my  mother  and  sister ;  even  my  mysterious  adventure  on  the 
way  home  from  ^amp6tead — ^had  all  become  like  events  which  might  ha79 


THE  WOMAN   IN  WHl'l-E.  21 

occurred  at  some  former  epoch  of  my  ezistenoe.  Althoogli  the  woman  in 
white  was  still  in  my  mind,  the  image  of  her  seemed  to  have  grown  dull 
and  &int  already. 

A  little  before  nine  o'clock,  I  descended  to  the  gronnd-fioor  of  the  house. 
The  solemn  man-servant  of  the  night  before  met  me  wandering  among  the 
passages,  and  compassionately  showed  me  the  way  to  the  breakfast-room. 

Hy  first  glance  round  me,  as  the  man  opened  the  |k)or,  disclosed  a  weU- 
fnmished  breakfast-table,  standing  in  the  middle  of  a  long  room,  with 
many  windows  in  it.  I  looked  from  the  table  to  the  Irfndow  farthest  from 
me,  and  saw  a  lady  standing  at  it,  with  her  back  turned  towards  me.  The 
instant  my  eyes  rested  on  her,  I  was  stnu^  by  the  rare  beauty  of  her  form, 
and  by  the  unaffected  grace  of  her  attitude.  Her  figure  was  tall,  yet  not 
too  tsdl ;  comely  and  well-developed,  yet  not  fat ;  her  head  set  on  her 
shoulders  with  an  easy,  pliant  firmness ;  her  waist,  perfection  in  the  eyes 
of  a  man,  for  it  occupied  its  natural  place,  it  filled  out  its  natural  circle,  it 
was  vifflbly  and  delightfully  undeformed  by  stays.  She  had  not  heard  my 
entrance  into  the  room ;  and  I  allowed  myself  the  luxury  of  admiring  her 
for  a  few  moments,  before  I  moved  one  of  the  chairs  near  me,  as  the  least 
embarrassii^  means  of  attracting  her  attention.  She  turned  towards  me 
immediately.  The  easy  elegance  of  every  movement  of  her  limbs  and  body 
as  soon  as  she  began  to  advance  from  the  &r  end  of  'the  room,  set  me  in  a 
flatter  of  expectation  to  see  her  face  clearly.  She  left  the  window — and  I 
said  to  myself,  The  lady  is  dark.  She  moved  forward  a  few  steps — and  I  said 
to  myself,  The  lady  is  young.  She  approached  nearer — and  I  said  to  myself 
(with  a  sense  of  surprise  which  words  fail  me  to  express^,  The  lady  is  ugly ! 

Never  was  the  old  conventional  maxim,  that  Nature  cannot  err,  more 
flatly  contradicted — ^never  was  the  fair  promise  of  a  lovely  figure  more 
strangely  and  startingly  belied  by  the  fa^e  and  head  that  crowned  it.  The 
lady's  complexion  was  almost  swarthy,  and  the  dark  down  on  her  upper  lip 
was  almost  a  moustache.  She  had  a  large,  firm,  masculine  mouth  and 
jaw ;  prominent,  piercing,  resolute  brown  eyes ;  and  thick,  coal-black  hair, 
growing  unusually  low  down  on  her  forehead.  Her  expression — ^bright, 
frank,  and  intelligent — appeared,  while  she  was  silent,  to  be  altogether 
wanting  in  those  feminine  attractions  of  gentleness  and  pliability,  without 
which  the  beauty  of  the  handsomest  woman  alive  is  beauty  incomplete. 
To  see  such  a  face  as  this  set  on  shoulders  that  a  Sculptor  would  have 
longed  to  model — ^to  be  charmed  by  the  modest  graces  of  action  through 
which  the  symmetrical  limbs  betrayed  their  beauty  when  they  moved,  and 
then  to  be  almost  repelled  by  the  masculine  form  and  masculine  look  of  the 
features  in  which  the  perfectly  shaped  figure  ended — ^was  to  feel  a  sensation 
oddly  akin  to  the  helpless  diiscomfort  familiar  to  us  all  in  sleep,  when  W6 
recognise  yet  cannot  reconcile  the  anomalies  and  contradictions  of  a  dream* 

"Mr.  Hartright?"  said  the  lady  interrogatively;  her  ^njkface  lightinjr 


22  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

op  with  a  smile,  and  fioftening  and  growing  womanly  the  moment  she 
began  to  speak.  **  We  resigned  all  hope  of  yon  last  night,  and  went  to  bed 
aa  usual.  Accept  my  apologies  for  our  apparent  want  of  attention ;  and 
allow  me  to  introduce  myself  as  one  of  your  pupils.  Shall  we  shake  hands  ? 
I  suppose  we  must  come  to  it  sooner  or  later— and  why  not  sooner?" 

Ihese  odd  words  of  welcome  were  spoken  in  a  clear,  imging,  pleasant 
Yoioe.  The  offered  hand — rather  large,  but  beautifdlly  formed — was  giyen 
to  me  with  the  easy,  unaffected  self-reliance  of  a  highly-bred  woman.  We 
sat  down  together  at  the  breakfast-table  in  as  cordial  and  customary  a 
manner  as  if  we  had  known  each  other  fixr  years,  and  had  met  at  Limmeridge 
House  to  talk  over  old  times  by  previous  appointment. 

**  I  hope  you  come  here  good-humouredly  determined  to  make  the  best 
of  your  position,"  continued  the  lady.  ^  You  will  have  to  begin  this  morn- 
ing by  putting  up  with  no  other  company  at  breakfast  than  mine.  My 
sister  is  in  her  own  room,  nursing  that  essentially  feminine  malady,  a  slight 
headache ;  and  her  old  governess,  Mrs.  Yesey,  is  charitably  attending  on 
her  with  restorative  tea.  My  nnde,  Mr.  Fairlie,  never  joins  us  at  any  of 
our  meals :  he  is  an  invalid,  and  keeps  bachelor  state  in  his  own  apartments. 
There  is  nobody  else  in  the  house  but  me.  Two  young  ladies  have  been 
staying  here,  but  they  went  away  yesterday,  in  despair ;  and  no  wonder. 
All  through  their  visit  (in  consequence  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  invalid  ccmdition) 
we  produced  no  such  convenience  in  the  house  as  a  flirtable,  danoeable, 
small-talkable  creature  of  the  male  sex ;  and  the  consequence  was,  we  did 
tiothing  but  quarrel,  especially  at  dinner-time.  How  can  you  expect  four 
women  to  dine  together  alone  every  day,  and  not  quarrel?  We  are  sucb 
fools,  we  can't  entertain  each  other  at  table.  Tou  see  I  don't  think  much 
of  my  own  sex,  Mr.  Hartright— -which  will  you  have,  tea  or  coffee? — no 
woman  does  think  much  of  her  own  sex,  although  few  of  them  confess  it  as 
freely  as  I  do.  Dear  me,  you  look  puzzled.  Why  ?  Are  you  wondering 
what  you  will  have  for  breakfast  ?  or  are  you  surprised  at  my  careless  way 
of 'talking?  In  the  first  case,  I  advise  you,  as  a  friend,  to  have  nothing  to 
do  with  that  cold  ham  at  your  elbow,  and  to  wait  till  the  omelette  comes  in. 
In  the  second  case,  I  will  give  you  some  tea  to  compose  your  spirits,  and 
do  all  a  woman  can  (which  is  very  little,  by-the-by)  to  hold  my  tongue." 

She  handed  me  my  cap  of  tea,  laughing  gaily.  Her  light  flow  of  talk, 
and  her  lively  familiarity  of  manner  with  a  total  stranger,  were  aooom« 
panied  by  an  unaffected  naturalness  and  an  easy  inborn  confidence  in  her« 
self  and  her  position,  which  would  have  secured  her  the  respect  of  the  most 
audacious  man  breathing.  While  it  was  impossible  to  be  formal  and 
reserved  in  her  company,  it  was  more  than  impossible  to  take  the  faintest 
vestige  of  a  liberty  with  her,  even  in  thought.  I  felt  this  instinctively, 
even  while  I  caught  the  infection  of  her  own  bright  gaiety  of  spirits— oven 
while  I  did  my  best  to  answer  her  in  her  own  frank,  lively  way. 


THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE.  23 

"  Yes,  yes,"  she  said,  when  I  had  snggested  the  only  explanation  I  ooald 
offer,  to  account  for  my  perplexed  looks,  ''I  understand.  You  are  such 
a  perfect  stranger  in  the  house,  that  yon  are  puzzled  by  my  familiar 
references  to  the  worthy  inhabitants.  Katoral  enough :  1  ought  to  have 
thonght  of  it  before.  At  any  rate,  I  can  set  it  right  now.  Suppose  I 
bc^'n  with  mysdf,  so  as  to  get  done  with  that  part  of  the  subject  as  soon  as 
possible?  My  name  is  Marian  Halcombe;  and  I  am  as  inaccurate,  as 
women  usually  are,  in  calling  Mr.  Fairlie  my  uncle,  and  Miss  Fairlie  my 
sister.  My  mother  was  twice  married :  the  first  time  to  Mr.  Halcombe, 
my  fether ;  the  second  time  to  Mr.  Fau"lie,  my  half-sister's  father.  Except 
that  we  are  both  orphans,  we  are  in  every  respect  as  unlike  each  other  as 
possible.  My  fiither  was  a  poor  man,  and  Miss  Fairlie's  father  was  a  rich  man. 
I  have  got  nothing,  and  she  has  a  fortune.  I  am  dark  and  ugly,  and  she  is 
fair  and  pretty.  Everybody  thinks  me  crabbed  and  odd  (with  perfect 
justice);  and  everybody  thinks  her  sweet-tempered  and  charming  (with 
more  justice  still).  In  short,  she  is  an  angel ;  and  I  am—  Try  some  of 
that  marmalade,  Mr.  Hartright,  and  finish  the  sentence,  in  the  name  ol 
female  propriety,  for  yourself.  What  am  I  to  tell  you  about  Mr.  Fairlie  ? 
Upon  my  honour,  I  hardly  know.  He  is  sure  to  send  for  you  after  break- 
fast, and  you  can  study  him  for  yourself.  In  the  mean  time,  I  may  inform 
you,  first,  that  he  is  the  late  Mr.  Fairlie's  younger  brother ;  secondly,  that 
he  is  a  single  man ;  and,  thirdly,  that  he  is  Miss  Fairlie's  guardian.  I 
won't  live  without  her,  and  she  can't  live  without  me ;  and  that  is  how  I 
come  to  be  at  Limmeridge  House,  My  sister  and  I  are  honestly  fond  of 
each  other ;  which,  you  will  say,  %  perfectly  unaccountable,  under  the  cir- 
cumstances, and  I  quite  agree  witn  you — ^but  so  it  is.  You  must  please 
both  of  us,  Mr.  Hartright,  or  please  neither  of  us :  and,  what  is  still  more 
*7i^g>  yon  will  be  thrown  entirely  upon  our  society.  Mrs.  Vesey  is  an 
excellent  person,  who  possesses  all  the  cardinal  virtues,  and  counts  for 
nothing ;  and  Mr.  Fairlie  is  too  great  an  invalid  to  be  a  companion  for  any- 
body. I  don't  know  what  is  the  matter  with  him,  and  the  doctors  don't 
know  what  is  the  matter  with  him,  and  he  doesn't  know  himself  what  is 
the  matter  with  him.  We  all  say  it's  on  the  nerves,  and  we  none  of  us 
know  what  we  mean  when  we  say  it.  However,  I  advise  you  to  humour 
his  little  peculiarities,  when  you  see  him  to-day.  Admire  his  collection  of 
coins,  prints,  and  water-colour  drawings,  and  you  will  win  his  heart.  Upon 
my  word,  if  you  con  be  contented  with  a  quiet  country  life,  I  don't  see  why 
you  should  not  get  on  very  well  here.  From  breakfast  to  lunch,  Mr.  Fairlie's 
drawings  will  occupy  you.  After  lunch^  Miss  Fairlie  and  I  shoulder  our 
sketch-books,  and  go  out  to  misrepresent  nature,  under  your  directions. 
Drawing  is  Tier  fovourite  whim,  mind,  not  mine.  Women  can't  draw— 
their  minds  are  too  flighty,  and  their  eyes  are  too  inattentive.  No  raattei 
—my  sister  likes  it ;  so  I  waste  paint  and  spoil  paper,  for  her  sake,  as  com 


24  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

poeediy  as  any  woman  in  England.  As  for  the  evenings,  I  tLink  we  o^in 
help  you  through  them.  Miss  Fairlie  plays  delightfully.  For  my  own 
poor  part,  I  don't  know  one  note  of  music  from  the  other ;  but  I  can  match 
you  at  chess,  back-gammon,  6cart^,  and  (with  the  inevitable  female  draw- 
backs) even  at  billiards  as  well.  What  do  you  think  of  the  programme  ? 
Can  you  reconcile  yourself  to  our  quiet,  regular  life  ?  or  do  you  mean  to  bo 
restless,  and  secretly  thirst  for  change  and  adventure,  in  the  humdnim 
atmosphere  of  Limmeridge  House  ?'* 

She  had  run  on  thus  far,  in  her  gracefully  bantering  way,  with  no  other 
interruptions  on  my  part  than  the  unimportant  replies  which  poUteness 
required  of  me.  The  turn  of  the  expression,  however,  in  her  last  question, 
or  rather  the  one  chance  word,  **  adventure,"  lightly  as  it  fell  from  her  lips, 
recalled  my  thoughts  to  my  meeting  with  the  woman  in  white,  and  urged 
me  to  discover  the  connexion  which  the  stranger's  own  reference  to 
Mrs.  Fairlie  informed  me  must  once  have  existed  between  the  nameless 
fugitive  from  the  Asylum,  and  the  former  mistress  of  Limmeridge  House. 

''Even  if  I  were  the  most  restless  of  mankind,"  I  said,  "I  should  be  in 
no  danger  of  thirsting  after  adventures  for  some  time  to  come.  The  very 
night  before  I  arrived  at  this  house,  I  met  with  an  adventure ;  and  tlie 
wonder  and  excitement  of  it,  I  can  assure  you,  Miss  Halcombe,  will  last 
me  for  the  whole  term  of  my  stay  in  Cumberland,  if  not  for  a  much  longer 
jjeriod." 

"  You  don't  say  so,  Mr.  Hartright  I     May  I  hear  it  ?" 

''  You  have  a  claim  to  hear  it.  The  chief  person  in  the  adventure  was  a 
total  stranger  to  me,  and  may  perhaps  be  a  total  stranger  to  you ;  but  she 
certainly  mentioned  the  name  of  the  late  Mrs.  Fairlie  in  terms  of  the  siu- 
cerest  gratitude  and  regard." 

**  Mentioned  my  mother's  name !  You  interest  me  indescribably.  Pray 
go  on." 

I  at  once  related  the  circumstances  under  which  I  had  met  the  woman 
in  white,  exactly  as  they  had  occurred ;  and  I  repeated  what  she  had  said 
to  me  about  Mrs.  jj'airlie  and  Limmeridge  House,  word  for  word. 

Miss  Halcombe's  bright  resolute  eyes  looked  eagerly  into  mine,  from  the 
beginning  of  the  narrative  to  the  end.  Her  &ce  expressed  vivid  interest 
and  astonishment,  but  nothing  more.  She  was  evidently  as  far  fix)m  know- 
ing of  any  clue  to  the  mystery  as  I  was  myself. 

"  Are  you  quite  sure  of  those  words  referring  to  my  mother  ?"  she  asked. 

**  Quite  sure,"  I  replied.  "  Whoever  she  may  be,  the  woman  was  once  at 
school  in  the  village  of  Limmeridge,  was  treated  with  especial  kindness  by 
Mrs.  Fairlie,  and,  in  grateful  remembrance  of  that  kindness,  feels  an  affec- 
tionate interest  in  all  surviving  members  of  the  family.  She  knew  that 
Mrs.  Fairlie  and  her  husband  were  both  dead ;  and  she  spoke  of  Miss  Fair- 
lie  as  if  they  had  known  each  other  when  they  were  children.'* 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WH(TB.  25 

•*  You  said,  I  think,  that  she  denied  belonging  to  this  place  ?" 
"Yes,  she  told  me  she  came  from  Hampshire." 
"  And  yon  entirely  failed  to  find  out  her  name  ?" 
"  Entirely." 

"Very  strange.  I  think  you  were  quite  justified,  Mr.  Hartright,  in 
giving  the  poor  creature  her  Uberty,  for  she  seems  to  have  done  nothing  in 
your  presence  to  show  herself  unfit  to  enjoy  it.  But  I  wish  you  had  been 
a  little  more  resolute  about  finding  out  her  name.  We  must  really  clear 
up  this  mystery,  in  some  way.  You  had  better  not  speak  of  it  yet  to 
Mr.  Fairlie,  or  to  my  sister.  They  are  both  of  them,  I  am  certain,  quite 
as  ignorant  of  who  the  woman  is,  and  of  what  her  past  history  in  oonuexion 
with  us  can  be,  as  I  am  myself.  But  they  are  also,  in  widely  different 
ways,  rather  nervous  and  sensitive ;  and  you  would  only  fidget  one  and 
alarm  the  other  to  no  purpose.  As  for  myself,  I  am  all  aflame  with 
curiosity,  and  I  devote  my  whole  energies  to  the  business  of  discovery  from 
this  moment.  When  my  mother  came  here,  after  h^r  second  marriage,  she 
certainly  estabhshed  the  village  school  just  as  it  exists  at  the  present  time. 
But  the  old  teachers  are  all  dead,  or  gone  elsewhere ;  and  no  enlightenment 
is  to  be  hoped  for  from  that  quarter.    The  only  other  alternative  I  tan 

think  of '' 

At  this  point  we  were  inteirupted  by  the  entrance  of  the  servant,  with  a 
messs^e  from  Mr.  Fairlie,  intimating  that  he  would  be  glad  to  see  me,  as 
soon  as  I  had  done  breakfast. 

**  Wait  in  the  hall,"  said  Miss  Halcombe,  answering  the  servant  for  me, 
in  her  quick,  ready  way.  "  Mr.  Hartright  will  come  out  directly,  I  was 
about  to  say,"  she  went  on,  addressing  me  again,  "  that  my  sister  and  I 
have  a  large  collection  of  my  mother's  letters,  addressed  to  my  father  and 
to  hers.  In  the  absence  of  any  other  means  of  getting  information,  I  will 
pass  the  morning  in  looking  over  my  mother's  correspondence  with  Mr. 
Fairlie.  He  was  fond  of  London,  and  was  constantly  away  from  hLs 
country  home ;  and  she  was  accustomed,  at  such  times,  to  write  and  report 
to  him  how  things  went  on  at  Limmeridge.  Her  letters  are  full  of  refer- 
ences to  the  school  in  which  she  took  so  strong  an  intei'est ;  and  I  think  it 
more  than  likely  that  I  may  have  discovered  something  ^vhen  we  meet 
again.  The  luncheon  hour  is  two,  Mr.  Hartright.  I  shall  have  the  plea- 
sure of  introducing  you  to  my  sister  by  that  time,  and  we  will  occupy  the 
afternoon  in  driving  round  the  neighbourhood  and  showing  you  all  our 
pet  points  of  view.    Till  two  o'clock,  then,  farewell." 

She  nodded  to  me  with  the  lively  grace,  the  delightful  refinement  of 
familiarity,  which  characterised  all  that  she  did  and  all  tnat  she  said ;  and 
disappeared  by  a  door  at  the  lower  end  of  the  room.  As  soon  as  she  had 
left  me,  I  turned  my  steps  towards  the  hall,  and  followed  the  sen  ant  en 
my  way,  for  the  first  time,  to  the  presence  of  Mr.  Fairlie. 


26  THE  WOMAN    IN  ^VHITE. 

VU. 

Mt  conductor  led  me  up-Btairs  into  a  .passage  which  took  us  bock  to  the 
bedchamber  in  which  I  had  slept  during  jbhe  past  night ;  and  opening  the 
door  next  to  it,  begged  me  to  look  in. 

"  I  have  my  master's  orders  to  show  you  your  own  sitting-room,  sir," 
said  the  man,  "  and  to  inquire  if  yon  approve  of  the  situation  and  the 
light." 

I  must  have  been  hard  to  please,  indeed,  if  I  had  not  approved  of  the 
room,  and  of  everything  about  it.  The  bow-window  looked  out  on  the 
same  lovely  view  which  I  had  admired,  in  the  morning,  from  my  bed- 
room. The  furniture  was  the  perfection  of  luxury  and  beauty ;  the  table 
in  the  centre  was  bright  with  gaily  bound  books,  elegant  conveniences  for 
writing,  and  beautiful  flowers ;  the  second  table  -  near  the  window,  was 
covered  with  all  the  necessary  materials  for  mounting  water-colour  draw- 
ings, and  had  a  little  easel  attached  to  it,  which  I  could  expand  or  fold  np 
at  will ;  the  walls  were  hung  with  gaily  tinted  chintz ;  and  the  floor  was 
spread  with  Indian  matting  in  maize-colour  and  red.  It  was  the  prettiest 
and  most  luxurious  little  sitting-room  I  had  ever  seen ;  and  I  admired  it 
with  the  warmest  enthusiasm. 

The  solemn  servant  was  ki  too  highly  trained  to  betray  the  slightest 
satisfaction.  He  bowed  with  icy  deference  when  my  terms  of  eulogy  were 
all  exhausted,  and  silently  opened  the  door  for  mc  to  go  out  into  the  pas* 
sago  again. 

We  turned  a  corner,  and  entered  a  long  second  passage,  ascended  a  short 
flight  of  stairs  at  the  end,  crossed  a  small  circular  upper  hall,  and  stopped 
in  front  of  a  door  covered  with  dark  baize.  The  servant  opened  this  door, 
and  led  me  on  a  few  yards  to  a  second ;  opened  that  also,  and  discbsed 
two  curtains  of  pale  sea-green  silk  hanging  before  us ;  raised  one  of  them 
noiselessly ;  softly  uttered  the  words,  "  Mr.  Hartright,"  and  left  me. 

I  found  myself  in  a  large,  lofty  room,  with  a  magnificent  carved  ceiling, 
and  with  a  carpet  over  the  floor,  so  thick  and  soft  that  it  felt  Uke  piles  of 
velvet  nnder  my  feet.  One  side  of  the  room  was  occupied  by  a  long  book- 
case of  some  rare  inlaid  wood  that  was  quite  new  to  me.  It  was  not  more 
than  six  feet  high,  and  the  top  was  adorned  with  statuettes  in  marble, 
ranged  at  regular  distances  one  from  the  other.  On  the  opposite  side  stood 
two  antiqne  cabinets ;  and  l)etween  them,  and  above  them,  hung  a  picture 
of  the  Virgia  and  Child,  protected  by  glass,  and  bearing  Baphael's  name 
ya.  the  gilt  tablet  at  the  bottom  of  the. frame.  On  my  right  hand  and  on 
my  left,  as  I  stood  inside  the  door,  were  chiflbniers  and  little  stands  in 
buhl  and  marquetterie,  loaded  with  flgures  in  Dresden  china,  with  rare 
vases,  ivory  ornaments,  and  toys  and  curiosities  that  sparkled  at  all  points 
with  gold,  silver,  and  precious  stones.  At  the  lower  end  of  the  room, 
opposite  to  me,  the  windows  were  concealed  and  the  sunlight  was  tempered 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  27 

by  large  blinds  of  the  same  pale  sea-green  colour  as  the  curtains  over  the 
door.  The  light  thus  produced  was  deliciously  soft,  mysterious,  and  sub- 
dued ;  it  fell  equally  upon  all  the  objects  in  the  room ;  it  helped  to  inten- 
sify the  deep  silence,  and  the  air  of  profound  seclusion  that  possessed  the 
place ;  and  it  surrounded,  with  an  appropriate  halo  of  repose,  the  solitary 
%ure  of  the  master  of  the  house,  leaning  back,  listlessly  composed,  in  a 
Wge  easy-chair,  -with  a  reading-easel  fastened  on  one  of  its  arms,  and  a 
little  table  on  the  other. 

If  a  man's  personal  ajfpcarance,  w]ien  he  is  out  of  his  dressing-room,  and 
when  he  has  passed  forty,  can  be  accepted  as  a  safe  guide  to  his  time  of 
life — which  is  more  than  doubtful — ^Mr.  Fairlie's  age,  when  I  saw  him, 
might  have  been  reasonably^  computed  at  over  fifty  and  under  sixty  years. 
His  beardless  face  was  thin,  worn,  and  transparently  pale,  but  not 
wrinkled ;  his  nose  was  high  and  hooked ;  his  eyes  were  of  a  dim  grayish 
blue,  large,  prominent,  and  rather  red  round  the  rims  of  the  eyelids ;  his 
hair  was  scanty,  soft  to  look  at,  and  of  that  light  sandy  colour  which  is  the 
last  to  disclose  its  own  changes  towards  gray.  He  was  dressed  in  a  dark 
frock-coat,  of  some  substance  much  thinner  than  cloth,  and  in  waistcoat 
and  trousers  of  spotless  white.  His  feet  were  effeminately  small,  and  were 
clad  in  buff-coloured  silk  stockings,  and  little  womanish  bronze-leather 
slippers.  Two  rings  adorned  his  white  delicate  hands,  the  value  of  which 
even  my  inexperienced  observation  detected  to  be  all  but  priceless.  Upon 
the  whole,  he  had  a  frail,  languidly-fretful,  over-refined  look — something 
singularly  and  unpleasantly  delicate  in  its  association  with  a  man,  and,  at 
the  same  time,  something  which  could  by  no  possibility  have  looked 
natural  and  appropriate  if  it  had  been  transferred  to  the  personal  appearance 
of  a  woman.  My  morning's  experience  of  Miss  Halcombe  had  predisposed 
me  to  be  pleased  with  everybody  in  the  house ;  but  my  sympathies  shut 
themselves  up  resolutely  at  the  first  sight  of  Mr.  Fairlie. 

On  approaching  nearer  to  him,  I  discovered  that  he  was  not  so  entirely 
without  occupation  as  I  had  at  first  supposed.  Placed  amid  the  other  rare 
and  beautiful  objects  on  a  large  round  table  near  him,  was  a  dwarf  cabinet 
in  ebony  and  silver,  containing  coins  of  all  shapes  and  sizes,  set  out  in  little 
drawers  lined  with  dark  purple  velvet.  One  of  these  drawers  lay  on  the 
small  table  attached  to  his  chair ;  and  near  it  were  some  tiny  jewellers' 
brushes,  a  washleather  "stump,"  and  a  little  bottle  of  liquid,  all  waiting  to 
he  used  in  various  ways  for  the  removal  of  any  accidental  impurities  which 
might  be  discovered  on  the  coins.  His  frail  white  fingers  were  listlessly 
toying  with  something  which  looked,  to  my  uninstructed  eyes,  like  a  dirty 
pewter  medal  with  ragged  edges,  when  I  advanced  within  a  respectful  dis- 
tance of  his  chair,  and  stopped  to  make  my  bow. 

"  So  glad  to  possess  you  at  limmeridge,  Mr.  Hartright,"  he  said  in  a 
querulous,  croaking  v."*ice,  which  combined,  in  anything  but  an  agreeabk 


28  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

manner,  a'  discordantly  higli  tone  with  a  drowsily  languid  utteranoo. 
**  Pray  sit  down.  And  don't  trouble  yourself  to  move  the  chair,  please. 
In  the  wretched  state  of  my  nerves,  movement  of  any  kind  is  exquisitely 
painful  to  me.    Have  you  seen  your  studio  ?    Will  it  do  ?" 

*'  I  have  just  oome  fcom  seeing  the  room,  Mr.  FairUe;  and  I  assure 
you ^' 

lie  stopped  me  in  the  middle  of  the  sentence,  by  closing  his  eyes,  and 
holding  up  one  of  his  white  hands  imploringly.  I  paused  in  astonishment : 
and  the  croaking  voice  honoured  me  with  this  explanation : 

"  Pray  excuse  me.  But  coiUd  you  contrive  to  speak  in  a  lower  key  ? 
In  the  wretched  state  of  my  nerves,  loud  sound  of  any  kind  is  indescribable 
torture  to  me.  You  will  pardon  an  invaUd  ?  1  only  say  to  you  what  the 
lamentable  state  of  my  h<»lth  obliges  me  to  say  to  everybody.  Yes.  And 
you  really  like  the  room  ?** 

**  I  could  wish  for  nothing  prettier  and  nothing  more  comfortable,"  I 
answered,  dropping  my  voice,  and  beginning  to  discover  already  that 
Mr.  Fairlie's  selfish  affectation  and  Mr,  FairUe's  wretched  nerves  meant  one 
and  the  same  thing. 

**  So  glad.  You  will  find  your  position  here,  Mr.  Hartright,  properly 
recognized.  There  is  none  of  the  horrid  English  barbarity  of  feeling  about 
the  social  position  of  an  artist,  in  this  house.  So  much  of  my  early  life  has 
been  passed  abroad,  that  I  have  quite  cast  my  insular  skin  in  that  respect. 
I  wish  I  could  say  the  same  of  the  gentry — detestable  word,  but  I  suppose  I 
must  use  it — of  the  gentry  in  the  neighbourhood.  They  are  sad  Goths  in 
Art,  Mr.  Hartright.  People,  I  do  assure  you,  who  would  have  opened  their 
eyes  in  astonishment,  if  they  had  seen  Charles  the  Fifth  pick  up  Titian's 
brush  for  him.  Do  you  mind  putting  this  tray  of  coins  back  in  the  cabinet, 
and  giving  me  the  next  one  to  it  ?  In  the  wretched  state  of  my  nerves, 
exertion  of  any  kind  is  unspeakably  disagreeable  to  me.    Yes.    Thank  you." 

As  a  practical  commentary  on  the  liberal  social  theory  which  he  had 
just  fevoured  me  by  illustrating,  Mr.  Fairlie's  cool  request  rather  amused 
me.''^  I  put  back  one  drawer  and  gave  him  the  other,  with  all  possible 
politeness.  He  began  trifling  with  the  new  set  of  coins  and  the  little 
brushes  immediately;  languidly  looking  at  them  and  admiring  them  all 
the  time  he  was  speaking  to  me. 

*'  A  thousand  thanks  and  a  thousand  excuses.  Do  you  like  coins  ?  Yes. 
So  glad  we  have  another  taste  in  common  besides  our  taste  for  Art.  Now, 
about  the  pecuniary  arrangements  between  us— do  tell  me — are  they 
satisfactory  ?" 

"  Most  satisfactory,  Mr.  Fairlie." 

**  So  glad.  And — what  next  ?  Ah  1  I  remember.  Yes.  In  reference 
to  the  consideration  which  you  are  good  enough  to  accept  for  giving  me  the 
benefit  of  your  accomplishments  in  art,  my  steward  will  wait  on  you  at  the 


THE  WOMAN   IN    WHITE.  29 

end  of  the  first  week,  to  aaoertain  your  wishes.  And — ^what  next  ?  Gnrioiu, 
is  it  not  ?  I  had  a  great  deal  more  to  say ;  and  I  appear  to  have  quite  for- 
gotten it.  Do  yon  mind  touching  the  heU?  In  that  comer.  Tes. 
Thank  you." 

I  rang ;  and  a  new  senrant  noiselessly  made  his  appearance— a  foreigner, 
with  a  set  smile  and  perfectly  brushed  hair — a  valet  every  inch  of  him. 

"  Louis,"  said  Mr.  Fairlie,  dreamily  dusting  the  tips  of  his  fingers  with 
one  of  the  tiny  brushes  for  the  coins,  **  I  made  some  entries  in  my  tablettes 
this  morning.  Find  my  tablettes.  A  thousand  pardons,  Mr.  Hartright, 
Fm  afraid  I  bore  you." 

As  he  wearily  closed  his  eyes  again,  before  I  could  answer,  and  as  he  did 
most  assuredly  bore  me,  I  sat  silent,  and  looked  up  at  the  Madonna  and 
Child  by  Baphael.  In  the  mean  time,  the  valet  left  the  room,  and  returned 
shortly  with  a  little  ivory  book.  Mr.  Fairlie,  after  first  relieving  himself  by 
a  gentle  sigh,  let  the  book  drop  open  with  one  hand,  and  held  up  the  tiny 
brush  with  the  other,  as  a  sign  to  the  servant  to  wait  for  further  orders. 

"  Tes.  Just  so  I"  said  Mr.  Fairlie,  consulting  the  tablettes.  ^  Louis, 
take  down  that  portfolio."  He  pointed,  as  he  spoke,  to  several  portfolios 
placed  near  the  window,  on  mahogany  stands.  **  Ko.  Kot  the  one  with 
the  green  back — that  contains  my  Rembrandt  etchings,  Mr.  Hartright. 
Do  you  like  etchings?  Tes?  So  glad  we  have  another  taste  in  common. 
The  portfolio  with  the  red  back,  Louis.  Don't  drop  it  I  Tou  have  no  idea 
of  the  tortures  I  should  sufier,  Mr.  Hartright,  if  Louis  dropped  that  port- 
folio. Is  it  safe  on  the  chair  ?  Do  you  think  it  safe,  Mr.  Hcutright  ?  Tes  ? 
So  glad.  Will  you  oblige  me  by  looking  at  the  drawingiB,  if  you  really 
think  they  are  quite  safe.  Louis,  go  away.  What  an  ass  you  are.  Don't 
you  see  me  holding  the  tablettes?  Do  you  suppose  I  want  to  hold  them? 
Then  why  not  relieve  me  of  the  tablettes  without  being  told  ?  A  thousand 
pardons,  Mr.  Hartright ;  servants  are  such  asses,  are  they  not  ?  Do  tell 
me— what  do  you  think  of  the  drawings  ?  They  have  come  from  a  sale  in 
a  shocking  state — I  thought  they  smelt  of  horrid  dealers'  and  brokers* 
fingers  when  I  looked  at  them  last.     Can  you  undertake  them  ?" 

Although  my  nerves  were  not  delioate  enough  to  detect  the  odour  » 
plebeian  fingers  which  had  offended  Mr.  Fairlie's  nostrils,  my  taste  was 
sufficiently  educated  to  enable  me  to  appreciate  the  value  of  the  drawings, 
while  I  turned  them  over.  They  were,  for  the  most  part,  really  fine 
specimens  of  English  water-colour  Art ;  and  they  had  deserved  much 
better  treatment  at  the  hands  of  their  foimer  possessor  than  they  appeared 
to  have  received. 
"  The  drawings,"  I  answered,  "  require  careful  straining  and  mounting ; 

and,  in  my  opinion,  they  are  well  worth " 

**  I  beg  your  pardon,"  interposed  Mr.  Fairlie,    "  Do  you  mind  my  closing 
my  eyes  while  you  speak  ?    Even  this  light  is  too  much  for  them.    Tes  ?" 


30  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

**  1  was  about  to  say  Uiat  the  drawings  are  well  wortfi  all  the  time  and 
trouble "* 

Mr.  Fairlie  suddenly  opened  his  eyes  again,  and  rolled  them  with  an  ex- 
pression of  helpless  alarm  in  the  directioii  of  the  window. 

**  I  entreat  you  to  excuse  me,  Mr.  Hartright,"  he  said  in  a  feeble  flutter. 
**  But  surely  I  hear  some  horrid  children  in  the  garden — ^my  private 
garden—below  ?" 

''  I  can't  say,  Mr.  Fairlie.    I  heard  nothing  myBelfl" 

**  Oblige  me — you  have  been  so  yery  good  in  humouring  my  poor  nerves 
—oblige  me  by  lifting  up  a  comer  of  the  blind.  Don't  let  the  sun  in  on 
me,  Mr.  Hartright !  Have  you  got  the  blind  up  ?  Yes  ?  Then  will  you 
bo  so  very  kind  as  to  look  into  the  garden  and  make  quite  sure  ?'* 

I  oomplied  with  this  new  request.  The  garden  was  careflilly  walled  in, 
all  round.  Not  a  human  ereatuie,  large  or  small,  appeared  in  any  part  of 
the  sacred  seclusion.    I  reported  that  gratifying  fact  to  Mr.  Fairlie. 

'*  A  thousand  thanks.  My  fieincy,  I  suppose.  There  are  no  children, 
thank  Heaven,  in  the  house;  but  the  servants  (persons  bom  without 
nerves)  will  encourage  the  children  from  the  village.  Such  brats— oh, 
dear  me,  such  brats !  Shall  I  confess  it,  Mr.  Hartright? — ^I  sadly  want  a 
reform  in  the  constmction  of  children.  Nature's  only  idea  seems  to  be  to 
make  them  machines  for  the  production  of  incessant  noise.  Surely  our 
delightful  Baffaello's  conception  is  infinitely  preferable  P* 

He  pointed  to  the  picture  of  the  Madonna,  the  upper  part  of  which 
represented  the  conventional  chembs  of -Italian  Art,  celestially  provided 
with  sitting  aooommodatioa  for  their  chins,  on  balloons  of  buff-coloured 
cloud. 

^  Quite  a  model  family  1"  said  Mr.  Fairlie,  leering  at  the  chembs. 
*'  Such  nice  round  faces,  and  such  nice  soft  wings,  and — ^nothing  else.  No 
dirty  little  legs  to  run  about  on,  and  no  noisy  little  lungs  to  scream  with. 
How  immeasurably  superior  to  the  existing  oonstniotion  I  I  will  close  my 
eyes  again,  if  you  will  allow  me.  And  you  really  can  manage  the  draw* 
ings  ?  So  glad.  Is  there  anything  else  to  settle  ?  if  there  is,  I  think  I 
have  forgotten  it.    Shall  we  ring  for  Louis  again  P' 

Being,.by  this  time,  quite  as  anxious,  on  my  side,  as  Mr.  Fairlie  evidently 
was  on  his,  to  bring  the  interview  to  a  speedy  conclusion,  Ithou^t  I  would 
try  to  render  the  summoning  of  the  servant  unnecessary,  by  offering  tiie 
requisite  suggestion  on  my  own  responsibility. 

"  The  only  point,  Mr.  Fairlie,  that  remains  to  be  discussed,"  I  said, 
^*  refers,  I  think,  to  the  instmction  in  sketching  which  I  am  engaged  to 
communicate  to  the  two  young  ladies.** 

'*  Ah  I  just  so,*'  said  Mr.  Fairlie.  "  I  wish  I  felt  strong  enough  io  go 
mto  that  part  of  the  arrangement— but  I  don't  The  ladies,  who  profit  by 
your  kind  services,  Mr.  Hartright,  must  settle,  and  decide,  and  so  on,  fdvr 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE,  31 

themaelves .  My  niece  is  fond  of  your  channing  art.  She  knowg  just 
enough  about  it  to  be  conscious  of  her  own  sad  defects.  Please  take  pains 
with  her.  Yes.  Is  there  anything  else?  No.  We  quite  understand 
each  other — don't  We  ?  I  have  no  right  to  detain  you  any  longer  from 
your  delightful  pursuit — ^have  I  ?  So  pleasant  to  have  settled  every  thing- 
such  a  sensible  relief  to  have  done  business.  Do  you  mind  ringing  for 
Louis  to  carry  the  portfolio  to  your  own  room  P" 
**  I  will  carry  it  there,  myself,  Mr.  Fairlie,  if  you  will  allow  me." 
**  Will  you  reaUy  ?  Are  you  strong  enough  ?  How  nice  to  be  so  strong  I 
Are  yaa  sure  you  won't  drop  itP  So  glad  to  possess  you  at  Limmeridge, 
Mr.  Hartright.  I  am  such  a  sufferer  that  I  hardly  dare  hope  to  enjoy  much 
of  your  society.  Would  you  mind  taking  great  pains  not  to  let  the  doors 
bai^  and  not  to  drop  the  portfolio?  Thank  you.  Gently  with  the 
curtains,  please— the  slightest  noise  from  them  goes  through  me  Uke  a 
knife.    Yes.     Good  mormngV* 

When  the  sea-green  curtains  were  closed,  and  when  the  two  baize  doors 
were  Bfant  behind  me,  I  stopped  for  a  moment  in  the  little  circular  hall 
beyond*  and  drew  a  long,  luxurious  breath  of  relie£  It  was  like  coming  to 
the  soi&oe  of  the  water  after  deep  diving,  to  find  myself  once  more  on  the 
outside  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  room. 

As  BOOH  as  I  was  comfortably  established  for  the  morning  in  my  pretty 
Uttle  studio,  the  first  resolution  at  which  I  arrived  was  to  turn  my  steps  no 
more  in  the  direction  of  the  apartments  occupied  by  the  master  of  the 
house,  except  in  the  very  improbable  event  of  his  honouring  me  with  a 
special  invitation  to  pay  him  another  visit.  Having  settled  this  satisfactory 
plan  of  future  conduct,  in  reference  to  Mr.  Fairlie,  I  soon  recovered  the 
serenity  of  temper  of  which  my  employer's  haughty  familiarity  and  im- 
pudent politeness  had,  for  the  moment,  deprived  me.  The  remaining  hours 
of  the  moming  passed  away  pleasantly  enough,  in  looking  over  the  draw- 
mg9,  arranging  them  in  sets,  trimming  their  ragged  edges,  and  accomplish- 
ing the  other  necessary  preparations  in  anticipation  of  the  business  of 
mounting  them.  I  ouglht,  perhaps,  to  have  made  more  progress  than-  this ; 
but,  as  the  luncheon  time  drew  near,  I  grew  restless  and  unsettled,  and  felt 
unable  to  &K.  my  attention  on  work,  even  though  that  work  was  only  of 
the  humble  manual  kind. 

At  two  o'dock,  I  descended  again  to  the  breakfasi-room,  a  Uttle  anxiously. 
Expectations  of  some  interest,  were  connected  with  my  approaching  re- 
appearance in  that  part  of  the  house.  My  introduction  to  Miss  Fairlie  was 
now  dose  at  hand ;  and,  if  Miss  Halcombe's  search  through  her  mother's 
letters  had  produced  the  result  which  she  anticipated,  the  time  had  come 
for  clearing  up  the  mystery  of  the  woman  in  white. 


32  THE  WOMAN  IN   WUlTfl. 

VIII. 

When  I  entered  the  room,  I  found  Miss  Halcombe  and  an  elderly  ladj 
seated  at  the  luncheon-table. 

The  elderly  lady,  when  I  was  presented  to  her,  proved  to  be  Miss  Fairlie's 
former  gOYemess,  Mrs.  Vesey,  who  had  been  briefly  described  to  me  by  my 
lively  companion  at  the  breakfast-table,  as  possessed  of  '*  all  the  cardiDal 
virtues,  and  counting  for  nothing.*'    I  can  do  Uttle  more  than  offer  my 
humble  testimony  to  the  truthfulness  of  Miss  Halcombe's  sketch  of  the  old 
lady'd  character.    Mrs.  Vesey  looked  the  personification  of  human  ooia- 
posure,  and  female  amiability.    A  calm  enjoyment  of  a  calm  existence 
beamed  in  drowsy  smiles  on  her  plump,  placid  face.     Some  of  us  rash 
through  life    and  some  of  us  saunter  through  life.    Mrs.  Vesey  sat  through 
life.    Sat  in  the  house,  early  and  late ;  sat  in  the  garden ;  sat  in  unexpected 
window-seats  in  passages ;  sat  (on  a  camp-stool)  when  her  friends  tried  to 
take  her  outwalking ;  sat  before  she  looked  at  anything,  before  she  talked  of 
anything,  before  she  answered.  Yes,  or  No,  to  the  commonest  question — 
always  with  the  same  serene  smile  on  her  lips,  the  same  vacantly  attentive 
turn  of  her  head,  the  same  snugly-comfortable  position  of  her  hands  and 
arms,  under  every  possible  change  of  domestic  circumstances.    A  mild,  a 
compliant,  an  unutterably  tranquil  and  harmless  old  lady,  who  never  by 
any  chance  suggested  the  idea  that  she  had  been  actually  aUve  since  the 
hour  of  her  birth.    Nature  has  so  much  to  do  in  this  world,  and  is  engaged 
in  generating  such  a  vast  variety  of  co-existent  productions,  that  she  must 
surely  be  now  and  then  too  flurried  and  confused  to  distinguish  between  the 
different  processes  that  she  is  carrying  on  at  the  same  time.    Starting  from 
this  point  of  view,  it  will  always  remain  my  private  persuasion  that- 
Nature  was  absorbed  in  making  cabbages  when  Mrs.  Vesey  was  bom,  and 
that  the  good  lady  suffered  the  consequences  of  a  vegetable  preoccupation  in 
the  mind  of  the  Mother  of  us  all. 

*'  Now,  Mrs.  Vesey,"  said  Miss  Halcombe,  looking  brighter,  sharper,  and 
readier  than  ever,  by  contrast  with  the  undemonstrative  old  lady  at  her 
side,  "  what  will  you  have  ?    A  cutlet  ?" 

Mt8«  Vesey  crossed  her  dimpled  hands  on  the  edge  of  the  table ;  smiled 
placidly ;  and  said,  "  Yes,  dear." 

«  What  is  that  opposite  Mr.  Hartright?  Boiled  chicken,  is  it  not?  1 
thought  you  liked  boiled  chicken  better  than  cutlet^  Mrs.  Vesey  ?" 

Mrs.  Vesey  took  her  dimpled  hands  off  the  edge  of  the  table  and  crossed 
them  on  her  lap  instead ;  nodded  contemplatively  at  the  boiled  chicken,  and 
said, "  Yes,  dear." 

"  Well,  but  which  will  you  have,  to-day?  Shall  Mr.  Hartright  give  yon 
some  chicken?  or  shall  I  give  you  some  cutlet?" 

Mrs.  Vesey  put  one  of  her  dimpled  hands  back  again  on  the  edge  of  the 
table ;  hesitated  drowsily  i  and  said,  '*  Which  you  please^  dear." 


THE  WOMAN  ISf  WUITIL  3d 

**  Mercy  on  me  I  it*s  a  qnestion  for  your  taste,  my  good  lady,  not  for  mine. 
Suppose  you  have  a  little  of  both?  and  suppose  you  begin  with  the  chicken, 
because  Mr.  Hartright  looks  devoured  by  anxiety  to  carve  for  you." 

Mrs.  Yesey  put  the  other  dimpled  hand  back  on  the  edge  of  the  table 
brightened  dimly,  one    moment;    went   out   again,   the  next;    boweo 
obediently ;  and  said,  *'  If  you  please,  sir." 

Surely  a  mild,  a  compliant,  an  unutterably  tranquil  and  harmless  old 
lady  ?    But  enough,  perhaps,  for  the  present,  of  Mrs.  Vesey. 

All  this  time,  there  were  no  signs  of  Miss  Fairlie.  We  finished  our 
luncheon ;  and  still  she  never  appeared.  Miss  Halcombe,  whose  quick  eye 
nothing  escaped,  noticed  the  looks  that  I  cast,  from  time  to  time,  in  the 
direction  of  the  door. 

**  I  understand  you,  Mr.  Hartright,"  she  said ;  "  you  are  wondering  what 
has  become  of  your  other  pupil.  She  has  been  down  stairs,  and  has  got 
Over  her  headache ;  but  has  not  sufficiently  recovered  her  appetite  to  join 
us  at  lunch.  If  you  will  put  yourself  under  my  charge,  I  think  I  can 
undertake  to  find  her  somewhere  in  the  garden." 

She  took  up  a  parasol,  lying  on  a  chair  near  her,  and  led  the  way  out,  by 
a  long  window  at  the  bottom  of  the  room^  which  opened  on  to  the  lawn. 
It  is  almost  unnecessary  to  say  that  we  loft  Mrs.  Yesey  still  seated  at  the 
table,  with  her  dimpled  hands  still  crossed  on  the  edge  of  it ;  apparently 
settled  in  that  position  for  the  rest  of  the  afternoon. 

As  we  crossed  the  lawn.  Miss  Halcombe  looked  at  me  significantly,  and 
shook  her  head. 

**  That  mysterious  adventure  of  youi-s,"  she  said,  **  still  remains  involved 
in  its  own  appropriate  midnight  darkness.  I  have  been  all  the  morning  look- 
ing over  my  motiier's  letters,  and  I  have  made  no  discoveries  yet.  However, 
don't  despair,  Mr.  Hartright.  This  is  a  matter  of  curiosity ;  and  you  have 
got  a  woman  for  your  ally.  Under  such  conditions  success  is  certain, 
/>ooner  or  later.  The  letters  are  not  exhausted.  I  have  three  packets  still 
left,  and  you  may  confidently  rely  on  my  spending  the  whole  evening  over 
them." 

Here,  then,  was  one  of  my  anticipations  of  the  morning  still  unfulfilled. 
I  began  to  wonder,  next,  whether  my  introduction  to  Miss  Fairlie  would 
diBappoint  the  expectations  that  I  had  been  forming  of  her  since  break- 
fast-time. 

"  And  how  did  you  get  on  with  Mr.  Fairlie  ?"  inquired  Miss  Halcombe, 
as  we  left  the  lawn  and  turned  into  a  shrubbery.  "  Was  he  particularly 
nervous  this  morning  ?  Never  mind  considering  about  your  answer,  Mr. 
Hartright.  The  mere  fact  of  your  being  obliged  to  consider  is  enough  for 
me.  I  see  in  your-  face  that  he  was  particularly  nervous ;  and,  as  I  am 
1^niably  unwilling  to  throw  you  into  the  same  condition,  I  ask  no  more.*' 


84  THE  WOMAN  VS  WHTTE. 

We  turned  oflf  into  a  winding  path  while  she  was  speaking,  and  approached 
a  pretty  summer-house,  built  of  wood,  in  the  form  of  a  miniature  Swiss 
chalet.  The  one  room  of  the  summer-house,  as  we  ascended  the  steps  oi 
the  door,  was  occupied  by  a  young  lady.  She  was  standing  near  a  rustic 
table,  looking  out  at  the  inland  view  of  moor  and  hill  presented  by  a  gap 
in  the  trees,  and  absently  turning  over  the  leaves  of  a  little  sketch-book 
that  lay  at  her  side.    This  was  MisS  Fairlie. 

How  can  I  describe  her  ?  How  can  I  separate  her  from  my  own  sensa- 
tions, and  from  all  that  has  happened  in  the  later  time?  How  can  I  see 
her  again  as  she  looked  when  my  eyes  first  rested  on  her — as  she  should 
look,  now,  to  the  eyes  that  are  about  to  see  her  in  these  pages  ? 

The  water-colour  drawing  that  I  made  of  Laura  Fairlie,  at  an  after 
period,  in  the  place  and  attitude  in  which  I  first  saw  her,  lies  on  niy  desk 
while  I  write.  I  look  at  it,  and  there  dawns  upon  me  brightly,  from  the 
dark  greenish-brown  background  of  the  summer-house,  a  light,  youthful 
figure,  clothed  in  a  simple  muslin  dress,  the  pattern  of  it  formed  by  broad 
alternate  stripes  of  delicate  blue  and  white.  A  scarf  of  the  same  material 
sits  crisply  and  closely  round  her  shoulders,  and  a  little  straw  hat  of  the 
natural  colour,  plainly  and  sparingly  trimmed  with  ribbon  to  match  the 
gown,  covers  her  head,  and  throws  its  soft  pearly  shadow  over  the  upper 
part  of  her  face.  Her  hair  is  of  so  faint  and  pale  a  brown — not  flaxen,  and 
yet  almost  as  light ;  not  golden,  and  yet  almost  as  glossy — that  it  nearly 
melts,  here  and  there,  into  the  shadow  of  the  hat.  It  is  plainly  parted  and 
drawn  back  over  her  ears,  and  the  line  of  it  ripples  naturally  as  it  crosses 
her  forehead.  The  eyebrows  are  rather  darker  than  the  hair ;  and  the 
eyes  are  of  that  soft,  limpid,  turquoise  blue,  so  often  sung  by  the  poets,  so 
seldom  seen  in  real  life.  Lovely  eyes  in  colour,  lovely  eyes  in  form — large 
and  tender  and  quietly  thoughtful — ^but  beautiful  above  all  things  in  the 
clear  trathfulness  of  look  that  dwells  in  their  inmost  depths,  and  shines 
through  all  their  changes  of  expression  with  the  light  of  a  purer  and  a 
better  world.  The  charm — most  gently  and  yet  most  distinctly  expressed 
—which  they  shed  over  the  whole  face,  so  covers  and  transforms  its  little 
natural  human  blemishes  elsewhere,  that  it  is  difficult  to  estimate  the 
relative  merits  and  defects  of  the  other  features.  It  is  hard  to  see  that  the 
lower  part  of  the  face  is  too  delicately  refined  away  towards  the  chin  to  be 
in  full  and  fair  proportion  with  the  upper  part ;  that  the  nose,  in  escaping 
the  aquiline  bend  (always  hard  and  cruel  in  a  woman,  no  matter  how 
abstractedly  perfect  it  may  be),  has  erred  a  little  in  the  other  extreme,  and 
has  missed  the  ideal  straightness  of  line ;  and  that  the  sweet,  sensitive  lips 
are  subject  to  a  slight  nervous  contraction,  when  she  smiles,  which  draws 
them  upward  a  Uttle  at  one  comer,  towards  the  cheek.  It  might  be  possible 
to  note  these  blemishes  in  another  woman's  face,  but  it' is  not  easy  to  dwell 
on  them  in  hers,  so  subtly  are  they  connected  with  all  that  is  individual 


THE  WOMAN  IN    WHITE.  36 

and  characteristic  in  her  expression,  and  so  closely  does  the  expression 
depend  for  its  full  play  and  life,  in  every  other  feature,  on  the  moving 
impulse  of  the  eyes. 

Does  my  poor  portrait  of  her,  my  fond,  patient  labour  of  long  and  happy 
days,  show  me  these  things  ?  Ah,  how  few  of  them  are  in  the  dim  mecha- 
nical drawing,  and  how  many  in  the  mind  with  which  I  regard  it !  A  fair, 
delicate  girl,  in  a  pretty  light  dress,  trifling  with  the  leaves  of  a  sketch- 
book, while  she  looks  tip  from  it  with  truthful,  innocent  blue  eyes — that 
is  all  the  drawing  can  say ;  all,  perhaps,  that  even  the  deeper  reach  of 
thought  and  pen  can  say  in  their  language,  either.  The  woman  who  first 
gives  life,  light,  and  form  to  our  shadowy  coDcei)tions  of  beauty,  fills  a 
void  in  our  spiritual  nature  that  has  remained  unknown  to  us  till  she 
appears  L  Sympathies  that  lie  tocr  deep  for  words,  too  deep  almost  for 
lHoug>.«3,  are  touched,  at  such  times,  by  other  charms  than  those  which 
the  senses  feel  and  which  the  resources  of  expression  can  realise.  The 
mystery  which  underlies  the  beauty  of  women  is  never  raised  above  the 
reach  of  all  expression  until  it  has  claimed  kindred  with  the  deeper  mystery 
in  our  own  souls.  Then,  and  then  only,  has  it  passed  beyond  the  narrow 
region  on  -which  light  falls,  in  this  world,  firom  the  pencil  and  the  pen. 

Think  of  her  as  you  thought  of  the  first  woman  who  quickened  the 
pulses  within  you  that  the  rest  of  her  sex  had  no  art  to  stir.  Let  the 
kind,  candid  blue  eyes  meet  yours,  as  they  met  mine,  with  the  one  match- 
less look  which  we  both  remember  so  well.  Let  her  voice  speak  the  music 
that  you  once  loved  best,  attuned  as  sweetly  to  your  ear  as  to  mine.  Let  her 
footstep,  as  she  comes  and  goes,  in  these  pages,  be  like  that  other  footstep 
to  whose  airy  fall  your  own  heart  once  beat  time.  Take  her  as  the 
visionary  nursling  of  your  own  fancy ;  and  she  will  grow  upon  you,  all  the 
more  clearly,  as  the  living  woman  who  dwells  in  mine. 

Among  the  sensations  that  crowded  on  me,  when  my  eyes  first  looked 
upon  her — ^familiar  sensations  which  we  all  know,  which  spring  to  life  in 
most  of  our  hearts,  die  again  in  so  many,  and  renew  their  bright  existence 
in  so  few — ^there  was  one  that  troubled  and  perplexed  me  ;  one  that  seemea 
strangely  inconsistent  and  unaccountably  out  of  place  in  Miss  Fairlie's 
presence. 

Mingling  with  the  vivid  impression  produced  by  the  charm  of  her  fair 
face  and  head,  her  sweet  expression,  and  her  winning  simplicity  of  manner, 
was  another  impression,  which,  in  a  shadowy  way,  suggested  to  me  the 
idea  of  something  wanting.  At  one  time  it  seemed  like  something  wanting 
in  her;  at  another,  like  something  wanting  in  myself,  which  hindered  me 
from  understanding  her  as  I  ought.  The  impression  was  always  strongest, 
in  the  most  contradictory  manner,  when  she  looked  at  me ;  or,  in  other 
words,  when  I  was  most  conscious  of  the  harmony  and  charm  of  her  face. 
and  yet,  at  the  same  time,  most  troubled  by  the  sense  of  an  incompleten'- 


86  I  UK   WOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

which  it  was  impoflsible  to  discover.      Something  wanting,  somclhing 
wanting — and  where  it  was,  and  what  it  was,  I  could  not  say. 

The  effect  of  this  curious  caprice  of  fancy  (as  I  thought  it  then)  was  not 
of  a  Dature  to  set  me  at  my  ease,  during  a  first  interview  with  Miss  Fairlie. 
The  few  kind  words  of  welcome  which  she  spoke  found  me  hardly  self- 
possessed  enough  to  thank  her  in  the  customary  phrases  of  reply.  Observ- 
ing my  hesitation,  and  no  doubt  attributing  it,  naturally  enough,  to  some 
momentary  shyness  on  my  part.  Miss  Halcombe  took  the  business  of  talk- 
ing, as  easily  and  readily  as  usual,  into  her  own  hands. 

"  Look  there,  Mr.  Hartright,"  she  said,  pointing  to  the  sketch-book  on 
the  table,  and  to  tbe  little  delicate  wandering  hand  that  was  still  trifling 
with  it.  "  Surely  you  will  acknowledge  that  your  model  pupil  is  found  at 
last  ?  The  moment  she  heai*s  that  you  are  in  the  house,  she  seizes  her  ines- 
timable sketch-book,  looks  universal  Nature  straight  in  the  face,  and  longs 
to  begin  1** 

Miss  Fairlie  laughed  with  a  ready  good-humour,  which  broke  out  as 
brightly  as  if  it  had  been  part  of  the  sunshine  above  us,  over  her  lovely 
face. 

"  I  must  not  take  credit  to  myself  where  no  credit  is  due,"  she  said,  her 
clear,  truthful  blue  eyes  looking  alternately  at  Miss  Halcombe  and  at  me. 
"  Fond  as  I  am  of  drawing,  I  am  so  eonscious  of  my  own  ignorance  that  1 
am  more  afraid  than  anxious  to  begin.  Now  I  know  you  are  here,  Mr. 
Hartright,  I  find  myself  looking  over  my  sketches,  as  I  used  to  look  over 
my  lessons  when  I  was  a  little  girl,  and  when  I  was  sadly  afraid  that  I 
should  turn  out  not  fit  to  be  heard.** 

She  made  the  confession  very  prettily  and  simply,  and,  with  quaint, 
childish  earnestness,  drew  the  sketch-book  away  close  to  her  own  side  of 
the  table.  Miss  Halcombe  cut  the  knot  of  the  little  embarrassment  forth- 
with, in  her  resolute,  downright  way. 

**  Good,  bad,  or  indifferent,**  she  said,  "  the  pupil's  sketches  must  pass 
through  the  fiery  ordeal  of  the  master's  judgment — ^and  there's  an  end  of  it. 
Suppose  we  take  them  with  us  in  the  carriage,  Laura,  and  let  Mr.  Hartright 
see  them,  for  the  first  time,  under  circumstances  of  perpetual  jolting  and 
interruption  ?  If  we  can  only  confuse  him  all  through  the  drive,  between 
Nature  as  it  is,  when  he  looks  up  at  the  view,  and  Nature  as  it  is  not, 
when  he  looks  down  again  at  our  sketch-books,  we  shall  drive  him  into 
the  last  desperate  refuge  of  paying  us  compliments,  and  shall  slip  through 
his  professional  fingers  with  our  pet  feathers  of  vanity  all  unruflaed.** 

"  I  hope  Mr.  Hartright  will  pay  me  no  compliments,*'  said  Miss  Fairlie, 
as  we  all  left  the  summer-house. 
"  May  I  venture  to  inquire  why  you  express  that  hope  ?*\  I  asked. 
**  Because  1  shall  believe  all  that  you  say  to  me,**  she  answered,  simply. 
In  those  few  words  she  unconsciously  gave  me  the  key  to  her  whole 


THE  WOMAN   IN    WlIltR.  87 

character;  to  that  generous  trust  in  others  which,  in  her  nature,  grew 
.unocently  out  of  the  sense  of  her  own  truth.  1  only  know  it  intuitively 
then.    I  know  it  by  experience  now. 

We  merely  waited  to  rouse  good  Mrs.  Vesey  from  the  place  which  she 
fltill  occupied  at  the  deserted  luncheon-table,  before  we  entered  the  open 
carriage  for  our  promised  drive.  The  old  lady  and  Miss  Halcombe  occupied 
the  back  seat;  and  Miss  Fairlie  and  I  sat  together  in  front,  with  the 
sketch-book  open  between  us,  fairly  exhibited  at  last  to  my  professional 
eyes.  All  serious  criticism  on  the  drawings,  even  if  I  had  been  disposed  to 
volunteer  it,  was  rendered  impossible  by  Miss  Halcombe's  lively  resolution 
to  see  nothing  but  the  ridiculous  side  of  the  Fine  Arts,  as  practised  by  her- 
self, her  sister,  and  ladies  in  general.  I  can  remember  the  conversation 
that  passed  far  more  easily  than  the  sketches  that  I  mechanically  looked 
over.  That  part  of  the  talk,  especially,  in  which  Miss  Fairlie  took  any 
share  is  still  as  vividly  impressed  on  my  memory  as  if  I  had  heard  it  only 
a  few  hours  ago. 

Yes !  let  me  acknowledge  that,  on  this  first  day,  I  let  the  charm  of  her 
presence  lure  me  from  the  recollection  of  myself  and  my  position.  The 
most  trifling  of  the  questions  that  she  put  to  me,  on  the  subject  of  using 
her  pencil  and  mixing  her  colours ;  the  slightest  alterations  of  expression  in 
the  lovely  eyes  that  looked  into  mine,  with  such  an  earnest  desire  to  learn 
all  that  I  could  teach,  and  to  discover  all  that  I  could  show,  attracted  more 
of  my  attention  than  the  finest  view  we  passed  through,  or  the  grandest 
changes  of  light  and  shade,  as  they  flowed  into  each  other  over  the  waving 
moorland  and  the  level  beach.  At  any  time,  and  under  any  circumstances 
of  human  interest,  is  it  not  strange  to  see  how  little  real  hold  the  objects  of 
the  natural  world  amid  which  we  live  can  gain  on  our  hearts  and  minds  ? 
We  go  to  Nature  for  comfort  in  trouble,  and  sympathy  in  joy,  only  in 
books.  Admiration  of  those  beauties  of  the  inanimate  world,  which  modem 
poetry  so  largely  and  so  eloquently  describes,  is  not,  even  in  the  best  of  us, 
one  of  the  original  instincts  of  our  nature.  As  children,  we  none  of  uh 
possess  it.  No  uninstructed  man  or  woman  possesses  it.  Those  whose 
lives  are  most  exclusively  passed  amid  the  ever-changing  wonders  of 
sea  and  land  are  also  those  who  are  most  universally  insensible  to 
every  aspect  of  Nature  not  directly  associated  with  the  human  interest 
of  their  calling.  Our  capacity  of  appreciating  the  beauties  of  the  earth 
we  live  on  is,  in  truth,  one  of  the  civilised  accomplishments  which  we 
all  learn,  as  an  Art ;  and,  more,  that  very  capacity  is  rarely  practised  by 
any  of  us  except  when  our  minds  are  most  indolent  and  most  unoccupied. 
How  much  share  have  the  attractions  of  Nature  ever  had  in  the  pleasurable 
or  painful  interests  and  emotions  of  ourselves  or  our  friends  ?  What  space 
do  they  ever  occupy  in  the  thousand  little  narratives  of  personal  experience 
which  paas  every  day  by  word  of  mouth  fh)m  one  of  us  to  the  other  ?    Al' 


38  THE  WOMAN  IN  ^VHITE. 

that  our  minds  can  compass,  all  that  our  hearts  can  learn,  can  bo  accom- 
plished with  equal  certainty,  equal  profit,  and  equal  satisfaction  to  our- 
selves, in  the  poorest  as  in  the  richest  prospect  that  the  face  of  the  earth 
can  show.  There  is  surely  a  reason  for  this  want  of  inborn  sympathy 
between  the  creature  and  the  creation  around  it,  a  reason  which  may 
perhax^s  be  found  in  the  widely  differing  destinies  of  man  and  his  earthly 
sphere.  The  grandest  mountain  prospect  that  the  eye  can  range  over  is 
appointed  to  annihilation.  The  smallest  human  interest  that  the  pure 
heart  can  feel  is  appointed  to  immortality. 

We  had  been  out  nearly  three  hours,  when  the  carriage  again  passed 
through  the  gates  of  Limmeridge  House. 

On  our  waj  bacV,  I  had  let  the  ladies  settle  for  themselves  the  first 
point  of  view  which  they  were  to  sketch,  under  my  instructions,  on  the 
afternoon  of  the  next  day.  When  they  withdrew  to  dress  for  dinner,  and 
when  I  was  alone  again  in  my  little  sitting-room,  my  spirits  seemed  to 
leave  me  on  a  sudden.  I  felt  ill  at  ease  and  dissatisfied  with  myself,  I 
hardly  knew  why.  Perhaps  I  was  now  conscious,  for  the  first  time,  of 
having  enjoyed  our  drive  too  much  in  the  character  of  a  guest,  and  too 
little  in  the  character  of  a  drawing-master.  Perhaps  that  strange  sense  of 
something  wanting,  either  in  Miss  FairUe  or  in  myself,  which  had  per- 
plexed me  when  I  was  first  introduced  to  her,  haunted  me  still.  Anyhow, 
it  was  a  relief  to  my  spirits  when  the  dinner-hour  called  me  out  of  my 
solitude,  and  took  mo  back  to  the  society  of  the  ladies  of  the  house. 

I  was  struck,  on  entering  the  drawing-room,  by  the  curious  contrasti 
rather  in  material  than  in  colour,  of  ^the  dresses  which  they  now  wore. 
While  Mrs.  Vesey  and  Miss  Halcombe  were  richly  clad  (each  in  the 
manner  most  becoming  to  her  age),  the  first  in  silver-gray,  and  the  second 
in  that  delicate  primrose-yellow  colour  which  matches  so  well  with  a  dark 
complexion  and  black  hair,  Miss  Fairlie  was  unpretendingly  and  almost 
poorly  dressed  in  plain  white  muslin.  It  was  spotlessly  pure:  it  was 
beautifully  put  on ;  but  still  it  was  the  sort  of  dress  which  the  wife  or 
daughter  of  a  poor  man  might  have  worn ;  and  it  made  her,  so  far  as 
externals  went,  look  less  affluent  in  circumstances  than  her  own  governess 
At  a  later  period,  when  I  learnt  to  know  more  of  Miss  Fairlie's  character, 
I  discovered  that  this  curious  contrast,  on  the  wrong  side,  was  due  to  her 
natural  delicacy  of  feeling  and  natural  intensity  of  aversion  to  the  slightest 
personal  display  of  her  own  wealth.  Neither  Mrs.  Vesey  nor  Miss 
Halcombe  could  ever  induce  her  to  let  the  advantage  in  dress  desert  the 
two  ladies  who  were  poor,  to  lean  to  the  side  of  the  one  lady  who  was  rich. 

When  the  dinner  was  over,  we  returned  together  to  the  drawing-room. 
Although  Mr.  Fairlie  (emulating  the  magnificent  condescension  of  the 
monarch  who  had  picked  up  Titian's  brush  for  him)  had  instructed  his  butler 
to  consult  my  wishes  in  relation  to  the  wine  that  I  might  prefer  after  dinner^ 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  30 

I  was  reaoluto  enough  to  resist  the  temptation  of  sitting  in  solitary  grandem 
among  bottles  of  my  own.  choosing,  and  sensible  enough  to  ask  the  ladies' 
permission  to  leave  the  table  with  them  habitually,  on  the  civilised  foreign 
plan,  during  the  period  of  my  residence  at  Limmeridge  House. 

The  drawing-room,  to  which  we  had  now  withdrawn  for  the  rest  of  the 
evening,  was  on  the  ground-floor,  and  was  of  the  same  shape  and  size  as 
the  breakfast-room.  Large  glass  doors  at  the  lower  end  opened  on  to  a 
terrace,  beautifully  ornamented  along  its  whole  length  with  a  profusion  of 
flowers.  The  soft,  hazy  twilight  was  just  shading  leaf  and  blossom  alike 
into  harmony  with  its  own  sober  hues,  as  we  entered  the  room ;  and  the 
sweet  evening  scent  of  the  flowers  met  us  with  its  fragrant  welcome 
through  the  open  glass  doors.  Good  Mrs.  Vesey  (always  the  first  of  the 
party  to  sit  down)  took  possession  of  an  arm-chair  in  a  comer,  and  dozed 
off  comfortably  to  sleep.  At  my  request,  Miss  Fairlie  placed  herself  at  the 
piano.  As  I  followed  her  to  a  seat  near  the  instrument,  I  saw  Miss 
Halcombe  retire  into  a  recess  of  one  of  the  side  windows,  to  proceed  with 
the  search  through  her  mother's  letters  by  the  last  quiet  rays  of  the  evening 
light. 

How  vividly  that  peaceful  home-picture  of  the  drawing-room  comes 
back  to  me  while  I  write  I  From  the  place  where  I  sat  I  could  see  Misa 
Halcombe's  graceful  figure,  half  of  it  in  soft  light,  half  in  mysterious  shadow, 
bending  intently  over  the  letters  in  her  lap ;  while,  nearer  to  me,  the  fair 
profile  of  the  player  at  the  piano  was  just  dehcately  defined  against  the 
femtly  deepening  background  of  the  inner  wall  of  the  room.  Outside,  on 
the  terrace,  the  clustering  flowers  and  long  grasses  and  creepers  waved  so 
gently  in  the  light  evening  air,  that  the  sound  of  their  rustling  never 
reached  us.  The  sky  was  without  a  cloud ;  and  the  dawning  mystery  of 
moonlight  began  to  tremble  already  in  the  region  of  the  eastern  heaven. 
The  sense  of  peace  and  seclusion  soothed  all  thought  and  feeling  into  a 
rapt,  unearthly  repose ;  and  the  balmy  quiet  tbat  deepened  ever  ^vith  the 
deepening  light,  seemed  to  hover  over  us  with  a  gentler  influence  still, 
when  there  stole  upon  it  from  the  piano  the  heavenly  tenderness  of  the 
music  of  Mozart.    It  was  an  evening  of  sights  and  sounds  never  to  forget. 

We  all  sat  silent  in  the  places  we  had  chosen — Mrs.  Yesey  still  sleeping. 
Miss  Fairlie  still  playing,  Miss  Halcombe  still  reading — till  the  light  failed 
us.  By  this  time  the  moon  had  stolen  round  to  the  terrace,  and  soft, 
mysterious  rays  of  light  were  slanting  already  across  the  lower  end  of 
the  room.  The  change  from  the  twilight  obscurity  was  so  beautiful,  that 
we  banished  the  lamps,  by  common  consent,  when  the  servant  brought 
them  in  ;  and  kept  the  large  room  unlighted,  except  by  the  glimmer  of  the 
two  candles  at  the  piano. 

For  half  an  hour  more,  the  music  still  went  on.  After  that,  the  beauty 
of  the  moonlight  view  on  the  terrace  tempted  Miss  Fairlie  out  to  look  at  J* 


40  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

and  I  followed  her.  When  the  candles  at  the  piano  had  been  lighted, 
Miss  Haloombe  had  changed  her  place,  so  as  to  continue  her  examumtion 
of  the  letters  by  their  assistance.  We  left  her,  on  a  low  chair,  at  one  side 
of  the  instrument,  so  absorbed  over  her  reading  that  she  did  not  seem  to 
notice  when  wo  moved. 

We  had  been  out  on  the  terrace  together,  just  in  front  of  the  glass  doors, 
hardly  so  long  as  five  minutes,  I  should  think  ;  and  Miss  Fairlie  was,  by 
my  advice,  just  tying  her  white  handkerchief  over  her  head  as  a  precaution 
against  the  night  air — when  I  heard  Miss  Halcombe's  voice — low,  eager, 
and  altered  from  its  natural  lively  tone — pronounce  my  name. 

"  Mr.  Hartright,**  she  said, "  will  you  come  here  for  a  minute  ?  I  want 
to  speak  to  you." 

I  entered  the  room  again  immediately.  The  piano  stood  about  half  way 
down  along  the  inner  wall.  On  the  side  of  the  instrument  farthest  from 
the  terrace.  Miss  Haloombe  was  sitting  with  the  letters  scattered  on  her 
lap,  and  with  one  in  her  hand  selected  from  them,  and  held  close  to  the 
candle.  On  the  side  nearest  to  the  terrace  there  stood  a  low  ottoman,  on 
which  I  took  my  place.  In  this  position,  I  was  not  far  from  the  glass 
doors ;  and  I  could  see  Miss  Fairlie  plainly,  as  she  passed  and  repassed  the 
opening  on  to  the  terrace  ;  walking  slowly  from  end  to  end  of  it  in  the  full 
radiance  of  the  moon. 

^*  I  want  you  to  listen  while  I  read  [the  concluding  passages  in  this 
letter,"  said  Miss  Halcombe.  **  Tell  me  if  you  think  they  throw  any  light 
upon  your  strange  adventure  on  the  road  to  London.  The  letter  'is 
addressed  by  my  mother  to  her  second  husband,  Mr.  Fairlie ;  and  the  date 
refers  to  a  period  of  between  eleven  and  twelve  years  since.  At  that 
time,  Mr.  and  Mrs.  Fairlie,  and  my  half-sister  Laura,  had  been  living  for 
years  in  this  house ;  and  I  was  away  from  them,  completing  my  education 
at  a  school  in  Paris.** 

She  looked  and  spoke  earnestly,  and,  as  I  thought,  a  little  uneasily,  as 
well.    At  the  moment  'when  she  raised  the  letter  to  the  candle  before 
beginning  to  read  it.  Miss  Fairlie  passed  us  on  the  terrace,  looked  in  for  a 
moment,  and,  seeing  that  we  were  engaged,  slowly  walked  on. 
Miss  Halcombe  b^an  to  read,  as  follows : 

"  *  You  will  be  tired,  my  dear  Philip,  of  hearing  perpetually  about  my 
schools  and  my  scholars.  Lay  the  blame,  pray,  on  the  dull  uniformity  of 
life  at  Limmeridge,  and  not  on  me.  Besides,  this  time,  I  have  something 
really  interesting  to  tell  you  about  a  new  scholar. 

**  *  You  know  old  Mrs.  Kempe,  at  the  village  shop.  Well,  after  years  of 
ailing,  the  doctor  has  at  last  given  her  up,  and  she  is  dying  slowly,  day  by 
day.  Her  only  living  relation,  a  sister,  arrived  last  week  to  take  care  of 
her.    This  sister  comes  all  the  way  from  Hampshire — ^her  name  is  Mra. 


TH£  WOMAN  IN  WUITK.  4 1 

Oaiherick.  Four  days  ago  Mrs.  Catherick  came  bcro  to  see  me,  anil 
brought  lier  only  child  with  her,  a  sweet  little  girl  about  a  year  older  than 
our  darling  Uura- 


» ♦> 


As  the  last  sentence  fell  from  the  reader's  lips,  Miss  Fairlie  i)a8sed  us  on 
the  terrace  once  more.  She  was  softly  singing  to  herself  one  of  the  melodies 
which  she  had  been  playing  earlier  in  the  evening.  Miss  Halcombe  waited 
till  she  had  passed  out  of  sight  again ;  and  then  went  on  with  the  letter : 

"  *  Mrs.  Catherick  is  a  decent,  well-behaved,  respectable  woman ;  middle 
aged,  and  with  the  remains  of  having  been  moderately,  only  moderately, 
nice-looking.  There  is  something  in  her  manner  and  in  her  appearance, 
however,  which  I  can't  make  out.  She  is  reserved  about  herself  to  the 
point  of  downright  secrecy;  and  there  is  a  look  in  her  face  —  I  can't 
describe  it — which  suggests  to  me  that  she  has  something  on  her  mind. 
She  is  altogether  what  you  would  call  a  walking  mystery.  Her  errand  at 
Limmeridge  House,  however,  was  simple  enough.  When  she  left  Hamp- 
shire to  nurse  her  sister,  Mra.  Kempe,  through  her  last  illness,  she  had 
been  obliged  to  bring  her  daughter  with  her,  through  having  no  one  at 
home  to  take  care  of  the  little  girl.  Mrs.  Kempe  may  die  in  a  week's 
time,  or  may  linger  on  for  months  j  and  Mrs  Gatherick's  object  was  to  ask 
me  to  let  her  daughter,  Anne,  have  the  benefit  of  attending  my  school ; 
subject  to  the  condition  of  her  being  removed  from  it  to  go  home  again 
with  her  mother,  after  Mrs.  Kempe's  death.  I  consented  at  once ;  and 
when  Laura  and  I  went  out  for  our  walk,  we  took  the  little  girl  (who  is 
just  eleven  years  old)  to  the  school,  that  very  day.' " 

Once  more.  Miss  Fairlie's  figure,  bright  and  soft  in  its  sno^vy  muslir 
dress — her  face  prettily  framed  by  the  white  folds  of  the  handkerchief 
which  she  had  tied  under  her  chin — passed  by  us  in  the  moonlight.  Once 
more.  Miss  Halcombe  waited  till  she  was  out  of  sight ;  and  then  went  on : 

"  *I  have  taken  a  violent  fancy,  Philip,  to  my  new  scholar,  for  a  reason 
which  I  mean  to  keep  till  the  last  for  the  sake  of  surprising  you.  Hei* 
mother  having  told  me  as  Uttle  about  the  child  as  she  told  me  of  herself,  I 
was  left  to  discover  (which  I  did  on  the  fiist  day  when  we  tried  her  at 
lessons)  that  the  poor  little  thing's  intellect  is  not  developed  as  it  ought  to 
be  at  her  age.  Seeing  this,  I  had  her  up  to  the  house  the  next  day,  and 
privately  arranged  with  the  doctor  to  come  and  watch  her  and  question  her, 
and  tell  me  what  he  thought.  His  opinion  is  that  she  will  grow  put  of  it. 
But  he  says  her  careful  bringing-up  at  school  is  a  matter  of  great  impoi*t- 
ance  just  now,  because  her  unusual  slowness  in  acquiring  ideas  implies  an 
anusual  tenacity  in  keeping  them,  when  they  ore  once  received  into  h^ 


42  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

mind.  Now,  my  love,  you  must  not  imagine,  in  your  off-hand  way,  that  I 
have  been  attaching  myself  to  an  idiot.  This  poor  little  Anne  Oatiierick  is 
a  sweety  affectionate,  gi-ateful  girl ;  and  says  the  quaintest,  prettiest  things 
(as  you  shall  judge  by  an  instance),  in  the  most  oddly  sudden,  surprised, 
half-frightened  way.  Although  she  is  dressed  yery  neatly,  her  clothes 
show  a  sad  want  of  taste  in  colour  and  pattern.  So  I  arranged,  yesterday, 
that  some  of  our  darling  Laura's  old  white  frocks  and  white  hats  should  be 
altered  for  Anne  Catherick ;  explaining  to  her  that  little  girls  of  her  com- 
plexion looked  neater  and  better  all  in  white  than  in  anything  else.  She 
hesitated  and  seemed  puzzled  for  a  minute ;  then  flushed  up,  and  appeared 
to  understand.  Her  little  hand  clasped  mine  suddenly.  She  kissed  it, 
Philip  ;  and  said  (oh,  so  earnestly !),  "  I  will  always  wear  white  as  long  as 
I  live.  It  will  help  me  to  remember  you,  ma'am,  and  to  think  that  I  am 
pleasing  you  still,  when  I  go  away  and  see  you  no  more."  This  is  only  one 
specimen  of  the  quaint  things  she  says  so  prettily.  Poor  little  soul !  She 
shall  have  a  stock  of  white  frocks,  made  with  good  deep  tucks,  to  let  out 
for  her  as  she  grows— 


»»> 


Miss  Halcombe  paused,  and  looked  at  me  across  the  piano. 

**  Did  the  forlorn  woman  whom  you  met  in  the  high  road  seem  yoimg  ?" 
she  asked.     "  Young  enough  to  be  two  or  three-and-twenty  ?" 

'*  Yes,  Miss  Halcombe,  as  young  as  that." 

"  And  she  was  strangely  dressed,  from  head  to  foot,  all  in  white  ?" 

**  AU  in  white." 

While  the  answer  was  passing  my  lips,  Miss  Fairlie  glided  into  view  on 
the  terrace,  for  the  third  time.  Instead  of  proceeding  on  her  walk,  she 
stopped,  with  her  back  turned  towards  us ;  and,  leaning  on  the  balustrade 
of,  the  terrace,  looked  down  into  the  garden  beyond.  My  eyes  fixed  upon 
Jjie  white  gleam  of  her  muslia  gown  and  head-dress  in  the  moonlight,  and 
a  sensation,  for  which  I  can  find  no  name — a  sensation  that  quickened  my 
pulse,  and  raised  a  fiuttering  at  my  heart — ^began  to  steal  over  me. 

"  All  in  white  ?"  Miss  Halcombe  repeated.  "  The  most  important  sen- 
tences in  the  letter,  Mr.  Hartright,  are  those  at  the  end,  which  I  will  read 
to  you  immediately.  But  I  can't  help  dwelling  a  little  upon  the  coinci- 
dence of  the  white  costume  of  the  woman  you  met,  and  the  white  frocks 
which  produced  that  strange  answer  from  my  mother's  little  scholar.  The 
doctor  may  have  been  wrong  when  he  discovered  the  child's  defects  of 
intellect,  and  predicted  that  she  would  *  grow  out  of  them.'  She  may  never 
have  grown  out  of  them ;  and  the  old  grateful  fancy  about  d/ressing  in 
white,  which  was  a  serious  feeling  to  the  girl,  may  be  a  serious  feeling  to 
the  woman  still." 

I  said  a  few  words  in  answer — I  hardly  know  what.  All  my  attentioa 
was  concentrated  on  the  white  gleam  of  Miss  Faidie's  muslin  dress. 


THE   WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  43 

''Listen  to  the  last  sentences  of  the  letter,"  said  Miss  Halcombe.  ''I 
think  they  will  surprise  yon." 

As  she  raised  the  letter  to  the  light  of  the  candle,  Miss  Fairlie  turned 
from  the  balustrade,  looked  doubtfully  up  and  down  the  terrace,  advanced 
a  step  towards  the  glass  doors,  and  then  stopped,  facing  us. 

Meanwhile,  Miss  Halcombe  read  me  the  last  sentences  to  which  sho  had 
referred : 

"  *  And  now,  my  love,  seeing  that  I  am  at  the  end  of  my  paper,  now  for 
tlie  real  reason,  tiie  surprising  reason,  for  my  fondness  for  little  Anub 
Catherick.  My  dear  Philip,  although  she  is  not  half  so  pretty,  she  is, 
nevertheless,  by  one  of  those  extraordinary  caprices  of  accidental  resem- 
blance which  one  sometimes  sees,  the  living  likeness,  in  her  hair,  her  com- 
plexion, the  colour  of  her  eyes,  and  the  shape  of  her  face '  " 

I  started  up  from  the  ottoman,  before  Miss  Halcombe  could  pronounce 
the  next  words.  A  thrill  of  the  same  feeling  which  ran  through  mo  when 
the  touch  was  laid  upon  my  shoulder  on  the  lonely  high-road,  chilled  me 
again. 

There  stood  Miss  Fairlie,  a  white  figure,  alone  in  the  moonlight ;  in  her 
attitude,  in  the  turn  of  her  head,  in  her  complexion,  in  the  shape  of  her 
face,  the  living  image,  at  that  distance  and  under  those  circumstances,  of 
the  woman  in  white  1  The  doubt  which  had  troubled  my  mind  for  hours 
and  hours  past,  flashed  into  conviction  in  an  instant.  That  *'  something 
wanting "  was  my  oAvn  recognition  of  the  ominous  likeness  between  the 
fugitive  from  the  asylum  and  my  pupil  at  Limmeridge  House. 

**  You  see  it  1"  said  Miss  Halcombe.  She  dropped  the  useless  letter,  and 
her  eyes  flashed  as  they  met  mine.  "  You  see  it  now,  as  my  mother  saw 
it  eleven  years  since !" 

"  I  see  it — ^more  unwillingly  than  I  can  say.  To  associate  that  forlorn, 
friendless,  lost  woman,  even  by  an  accidental  likeness  only,  with  Miss 
Fairlie,  seems  like  casting  a  shadow  on  the  future  of  the  bright  creature 
who  stands  looking  at  us  now.  Let  me  lose  the  impression  again,  as  soon 
as  possible.     Call  her  in,  out  of  the  dreary  moonlight — ^pray  call  her  in  !" 

"  Mr.  Hartright,  you  surprise  me.  Whatever  women  may  be,  I  thought 
that  men,  in  the  nineteenth  century,  were  above  superstition," 

"  Pray  call  her  in !" 

•*  Hush,  hush !  She  is  coming  of  her  own  accord.  Say  nothing  in  her 
presence.  Let  this  discovery  of  the  likeness  be  kept  a  secret  between  you 
and  me.  Come  in,  Laura ;  come  in,  and  wake  Mrs.  Vesey  with  the  piana 
Mr.  Hartright  is  petitioning  fw  some  more  music,  and  he  wants  it,  this 
time,  of  the  lightest  and  liveliest  "kind." 


44  THE  WOMAN  IN   WniTfi. 

TX. 

So  ended  my  eventful  first  day  at  Limmeridge  House. 

Miss  Halcombe  and  I  kept  our  secret.  After  the  discovery  of  tlie  lifco- 
ness  no  fresh  light  seemed  destined  to  break  over  the  mystery  of  the  woman 
in  white.  At  the  first  safe  opportunity  Miss  Halcombe  cautiously  led  her 
half-sister  to  speak  of  their  mother,  of  old  times,  and  of  Anne  Catherick. 
Miss  Fairlie's  recollections  of  the  little  scholar  at  Limmeridge  were,  how- 
ever, only  of  the  most  vague  and  general  kind.  She  remembered  the  like- 
ness between  herself  and  her  mother's  favourite  pupil,  as  something  which 
had  been  supposed  to  exist  in  past  times  ;  but  she  did  not  refer  to  the  gift 
of  the  white  dresses,  or  to  the  singular  form  of  words  in  which  the  child  bad 
artlessly  expressed  her  gratitude  for  them.  She  remembered  that  Anne 
had  remained  at  Limmeridge  for  a  few  montjis  only,  and  had  then  left  it  to 
go  back  to  her  home  in  Hampshire  ;  but  she  could  not  say  whether  the 
mother  and  daughter  had  esrer  returned,  or  had  ever  been  heard  of  after- 
wards. No  further  search,  on  Miss  Halcombe's  part,  through  the  few 
letters  of  Mrs.  Fairlie's  writing  which  she  had  left  unread,  assisted  in 
clearing  up  the  uncertainties  still  left  to  perplex  us.  We  had  identified 
the  unhappy  woman  whom  1  had  met  in  the  night-time,  with  Anne  Cathe- 
rick— we  had  made  some  advance,  at  least,  towards  connecting  the  probably 
defective  condition  of  the  poor  creature's  intellect  with  the  peculiarity  of 
lier  being  dressed  all  in  white,  and  with  the  continuance,  in  her  maturer 
years,  of  her  childish  gratitude  towards  Mrs.  Fairlie — and  there,  so  far  as 
we  knew  at  that  time,  our  discoveries  had  ended. 

Tlie  days  passed  on,  the  weeks  passed  on ;  and  the  track  of  the  golden 
autumn  wound  its  bright  way  visibly  through  the  green  summer  of  the 
trees.  Peaceful,  fast-flowing,  happy  time !  my  story  glides  by  you  now, 
as  swiftly  as  you  once  glided  by  me.  Of  all  the  treasures  of  enjoyment 
that  you  poured  so  freely  into  my  heart,  h-jw  much  is  left  me  that  has 
purpose  and  value  enough  to  be  written  un  this  page  ?  Nothing  but  the 
saddest  of  all  confessions  that  a  man  can  make — the  confession  of  his  own 

folly. 

The  secret  which  that  confession  discloses  should  be  told  with  little 
effort,  for  it  has  indirectly  escaped  me  already.  The  poor  weak  words 
which  have  failed  to  describe  Miss  Fairlie,  have  succeeded  in  betraying  the 
sensations  she  awakened  in  me.  It  is  so  with  us  all.  Our  words  are  giantH 
when  they  do  us  an  injury,  and  dwarfs  when  they  do  us  a  service. 

I  loved  her. 

Ah !  how  well  I  know  all  the  sadness  and  all  the  mockery  that  is  con- 
tained in  those  three  words.  I  can  sigh  over  my  mournful  confession  with 
the  tenderest  woman  who  reads  it  and  pities  me.  I  can  laugh  at  it  as 
bitterly  as  the  hardest  man  who  tosses  it  from  him  in  contempt.    I  loved 


THIS  WOMAN    IN  WHITB.  45 

ber !  Feel  for  me,  or  despise  me,  I  confess  it  with  the  same  immovable 
resolution  to  own  the  truth. 

Was  there  no  excuse  for  me  ?  There  was  some  excuse  to  be  found, 
siii-ely,  in  the  conditions  under  which  my  term  of  hired  service  was  passed 
at  Limmeridge  House. 

My  morning  hours  succeeded  each  other  cabnly  in  the  quiet  and  seclu- 
sion of  my  own  room.  I  had  just  work  enough  to  do,  in  mounting  my 
employer's  drawings,  to  keep  my  hands  and  eyes  pleasurably  employed, 
while  my  mind  was  left  free  to  enjoy  the  dangerous  luxury  of  its  own 
unbridled  thoughts.  A  perilous  solitude,  for  it  lasted  long  enough  to  ener- 
vate, not  long  enough  to  fortify  mc.  A  perilous  solitude,  for  it  was 
followed  by  afternoons  and  evenings  spent,  day  after  day  and  week  after 
week,  alone  in  the  society  of  two  women,  one  of  whom  possessed  all  the 
accomplishments  of  grace,  wit,  and  high-breeding,  the  other  all  the  charms 
of  beauty,  gentleness,  and  simple  trath,  that  can  purify  and  subdue  the 
heart  of  man.  Not  a  day  passed,  in  that  dangerous  intimacy  of  teacher 
and  pupil,  in  which  my  hand  was  not  close  to  Miss  Fairlie's ;  my  cheek, 
as  we  bent  together  over  her  sketch-book,  almost  touching  hers.  The 
more  attentively  she  watched  every  movement  of  my  brush,  the  more 
closely  I  was  breathing  the  perfume  of  her  hair,  and  the  warm  fragrance 
of  her  breath.  It  was  part  of  my  service,  to  Uve  in  the  very  light  of 
her  eyes — ^at  one  time  to  be  bending  over  her,  so  close  to  her  bosom  as  to 
tremble  at  the  thought  of  touching  it ;  at  another,  to  feel  her  bending  over 
me,  bending  so  close  to  se^  what  I  was  about,  that  her  voice  sank  low  when 
she  spoke  to  me,  and  her  ribbons  brushed  my  cheek  in  the  wind  before  she 
could  draw  them  back. 

The  evenings  which  followed  the  sketching  excursions  of  the  afternoon, 
varied,  rather  than  checked,  these  innocent,  these  inevitable  fiamiliarities. 
My  natural  fondness  for  the  music  which  she  played  with  such  tender 
feehng,  such  delicate  womanly  taste,  and  her  natural  enjoyment  of  giving 
me  back,  by  the  practice  of  her  art,  the  pleasure  which  I  had  offered  to 
her  by  the  practice  of  mine,  only  wove  another  tie  which  drew  us  closer 
and  closer  to  one  another.  The  accidents  of  conversation;  the  simple 
habits  which  regulated  even  such  a  little  thing  as  the  position  of  our  places 
at  table ;  the  play  of  Miss  Halcombe's  ever-ready  raillery,  always  directed 
against  my  anxiety,  as  teacher,  while  it  sparkled  over  her  enthusiasm  as 
pupil ;  the  harmless  expression  of  poor  Mrs.  Vesey's  drowsy  approval  which 
connected  Miss  Fairlie  and  me  as  two  model  young  people  who  never  dis- 
turbed her — every  one  of  these  trifles,  and  many  more,  combined  to  fold 
us  together  in  the  same  domestic  atmosphere,  and  to  lead  us  both  insensibly 
to  the  same  hopeless  end. 

I  should  have  remembered  my  position,  and  have  put  myself  secretly  on 
my  guard.    I  did  so ;  but  not  till  it  was  too  late.    All  the  discretion. 


M 


8  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 


the  experience,  whicli  had  availed  me  with  other  women,  and  secured  me 
against  other  temptations,  failed  me  with  her.  It  had  been  my  profession, 
for  years  past,  to  be  in  this  close  contact  with  young  girls  of  all  ages,  and 
of  all  orders  of  beauty.  I  had  accepted  the  position  as  part  of  my  calling 
in  life ;  I  had  trained  myself  to  leave  all  the  sympathies  natural  to  my 
age  in  my  employer's  outer  hall,  as  coolly  as  I  left  my  umbrella  there  before 
I  went  up-stairs.  I  had  long  since  learnt  to  understand,  composedly  and 
as  a  matter  of  course,  that  my  situation  in  life  was  considered  a  guarantee 
against  any  of  my  female  pupils  feeling  more  than  the  most  ordinary 
Interest  in  me,  and  that  I  was  admitted  among  beautiful  and  capti- 
vating women,  much  as  a  harmless  domestic  animal  is  admitted  among 
them.  This  guardian  experience  I  had  gained  early ;  this  guardian 
experience  had  sternly  and  strictly  guided  me  straight  along  my  own 
poor  narrow  path,  without  once  letting  me  stray  aside,  to  the  right  hand 
or,  to  the  left.  And  now,  I  and  my  trusty  talisman  were  parted  for 
the  first  time.  Yes,  my  hardly-earned  self-control  was  as  completely 
lost  to  me  as  if  I  had  never  possessed  it ;  lost  to  me,  as  it  is  lost  every 
day  to  other  men,  in  other  critical  situations,  where  women  are  con- 
cerned. I  know,  now,  that  I  should  have  questioned  myself  from  the 
first.  I  should  have  asked  why  any  room  in  the  house  was  better  than 
home  to  me  when  she  entered  it,  and  barren  as  a  desert  when  she  went  out 
again — ^why  I  always  noticed  and  remembered  the  little  changes  in  her 
dress  that  I  had  noticed  and  remembered  in  no  other  woman's  before — why 
1  saw  her,  heard  her,  and  touched  her  (when  we  shook  hands  at  night  :'and 
morning)  as  I  had  never  seen,  heard,  and  touched  any  other  woman-'in  my 
life  ?  I  should  have  looked  into  my  own  heart,  and  found  this  new  growth 
springing  up  there,  and  plucked  it  out  while  it  was  young.  Why  was  this 
easiest,  simplest  work  of  self-culture  always  too  much  for  me?  The  expla- 
nation has  been  written  already  in  the  three  words  that  were  many  enough, 
and  plain  enough,  for  my  confession.     I  loved  her. 

The  days  passed,  the  weeks  passed ;  it  was  approaching  the  third  month 
of  my  stay  in  Cumberland.  The  delicious  monotony  of  life  in  our  calm 
seclusion,  flowed  on  with  me  like  a  smooth  stream  with  a  swimmer  who 
glides  down  the  current.  All  memory  of  the  past,  all  thought  of  the  future, 
all  sense  of  the  falseness  and  hopelessness  of  my  own  position,  lay  hushed 
within  me  into  deceitful  rest.  Lulled  by  the  Syren-song  that  my  own 
heart  sung  to  me,  with  eyes  shut  to  all  sight,  and  ears  closed  to  all  sound 
of  danger,  I  drifted  nearer  and  nearer  to  the  fatal  rocks.  The  warning  that 
aroused  me  at  last,  and  startled  me  into  sudden,  self-accusing  consciousne^ 
of  my  own  weakness,  was  the  plainest,  the  truest,  the  kindest  of  all  warn- 
ings, for  it  came  silently  from  her, 

"We  had  parted  one  night,  as  usual.  No  word  had  fallen  from  my  lips, 
at  that  time  or  at  any  time  before  it,  that  could  betray  me,  or  startle  her 


TH£  WOMAN  IK   WHITE.  47 

iDto  sudden  knowledge  of  the  truth.    But,  when  we  met  again  in  the 
morning,  a  change  had  come  over  her — ^a  change  that  told  me  alL 

I  shrank  then — ^I  shrink  still — ^from  invading  the  innermost  sanctuary  of 
her  heart,  and  laying  it  open  to  others,  as  I  have  laid  open  my  own.  Let 
it  be  enough  to  say  that  the  time  when  she  first  surprised  my  secret,  was,  1 
firmly  helieve,  the  time  when  she  first  surprised  her  own,  and  the  time, 
also,  when  she  changed  towards  me  in  the  interval  of  one  night.  Her 
nature,  too  truthfol  to  deceive  others,  was  too  noble  to  deceive  itselC 
When  the  doubt  that  I  had  hushed  asleep,  first  laid  its  weary  weight  on 
her  heart,  the  true  face  owned  all,  and  said,  in  its  own  frank  simple  lan- 
guage— ^I  am  sorry  for  him ;  I  am  sorry  for  myself. 

It  said  this,  and  more,  which  I  could  not  then  interpret.  I  understood 
but  too  well  the  change  in  her  manner,  to  greater  kindness  and  quicker 
readiness  in  interpreting  all  my  wishes,  before  others — to  constraint  and 
sadness,  and  nervous  anxiety  to  absorb  herself  in  the  firat  occupation  she 
could  seize  on,  whenever  we  happened  to  be  left  together  alone.  I  under- 
stood why  the  sweet  sensitive  lips  smiled  so  rarely  and  so  restrainedly  now ; 
and  why  the  clear  blue  eyes  looked  at  me,  sometimes  with  the  pity  of  an 
angel,  sometimes  with  the  innocent  perplexity  of  a  child.  But  the  change 
meant  more  than  this.  There  was  a  coldness  in  her  hand,  there  was  an 
unnatural  immobility  in  her  face,  there  was  in  all  her  movements  the  mute 
expression  of  constant  fear  and  clinging  self-reproach.  The  sensations  that 
I  could  trace  to  herself  and  to  me,  the  unacknowledged  sensations  that  we 
were  feeling  in  common,  were  not  these.  There  were  certain  elements  of 
the  change  in  her  that  were  still  secretly  drawing  us  together,  and  others 
that  weie,  as  secretly,  beginning  to  drive  us  apart. 

In  my  doubt  and  perplexity,  in  my  vague  suspicion  of  something  hiddei/ 
which  I  was  left  to  find  by  my  own  unaided  efforts,  I  examined  Miss  Hal 
combe's  looks  and  manner  for  enlightenment.  Living  in  such  intimacy  as 
ours,  no  serious  alteration  could  take  place  in  any  one  of  us  which  did  not 
sympathetically  affect  the  others.  The  change  in  Miss  Fairlie  was  reflected 
in  her  half-sister.  Although  not  a  word  escaped  Miss  Halcombe  which 
hinted  at  an  altered  state  of  feeling  towards  myself,  her  penetrating  eyes 
had  contracted  a  new  habit  of  always  watching  me.  Sometimes,  the  loot 
was  like  suppressed  anger ;  sometimes,  like  suppressed  dread ;  sometimes, 
like  neither — ^like  nothing,  in  short,  which  I  could  understand.  A  week 
elapsed,  leaving  us  all  three  still  in  this  position  of  secret  constraint  towards 
one  another.  My  situation,  aggravated  by  the  sense  of  my  own  miserable 
weakness  and  forgetfulness  of  myself,  now  too  late  awakened  in  me,  was 
becoming  intolerable.  I  felt  that  I  must  cast  off  the  oppression  under 
which  I  was  living,  at  once  and  for  ever — yet  how  to  act  for  the  best,  or 
what  to  say  first,  was  more  than  I  could  tell. 

From  this  position  of  helplessness  and  humiliation,  I  was  rescued  by  Mieo 


48  THE   WOMAN   IN  WIIITK. 

llaloombe.  Her  lips  told  me  the  bitter,  the  necessary,  the  imexpecicd 
truth ;  her  hearty  kindness  sustained  me  under  the  shock  of  hearing  it ; 
her  sense  and  courage  turned  to  its  right  use  an  event  which  threatened  the 
worst  that  could  happen,  to  me  and  to  others,  in  Limmeridge  House. 

X. 

It  was  on  a  Thursday  in  the  week,  and  nearly  at  the  end  of  the  third 
month  of  my  sojourn  in  Cumberland. 

In  the  morning,  when  I  went  down  into  the  breakfast-room,  at  the  usual 
hour,  Miss  Halcombe,  for  the  first  time  since  I  had  known  her,  was  absent 
from  her  customary  place  at  the  table. 

Miss  Fairlie  was  out  on  the  lawn.  She  bowed  to  me,  but  did  not  come 
in-  Not  a  word  had  dropped  from  my  lips,  or  from  hers,  that  could  un- 
settle either  of  us — and  yet  tho  same  unacknowledged  sense  of  embarrass- 
ment made  us  shrink  alike  from  meeting  one  another  alone.  She  waited  on 
the  lawn ;  and  I  waited  in  the  breakfast-room,  till  Mrs.  Yesey  or  Miss 
Halcombe  cakne  in.  How  quickly  I  should  have  joined  her :  how  readily 
we  should  have  shaken  hands,  and  glided  into  our  customary  talk,  only  a 
fortnight  ago  I 

In  a  few  minutes,  Miss  Halcombe  entered.  She  had  a  preoccupied  look, 
and  she  made  her  apologies  for  being  late,  rather  absently. 

**  I  have  been  detained,'*  she  said,  "  by  a  consultation  with  Mr.  Fairlie  or. 
a  domestic  matter  which  he  wished  to  speak  to  me  about." 

Miss  Fairlie  came  in  from  the  garden ;  and  the  usual  morning  greeting 
passed  between  us.  Her  hand  struck  colder  to  mine  than  ever.  She  did 
not  look  at  me ;  and  she  was  ^ery  pale.  Evcn^  Mrs.  Yesey  noticed  it, 
when  she  entered  the  room  a  moment  after. 

**I  suppose  it  is  the  change  in  the  wind,"  said  the  old  lady.  "The 
winter  is  coming — ah,  my  love,  the  winter  is  coming  soon  P 

In  her  heart  and  in  mine  it  had  come  already ! 

Our  morning  meal — once  so  full  of  pleasant  good-humoured  discussion 
of  the  plans  for  the  day — was  short  and  silent.  Miss  Fairlie  seemed  to  feel 
the  oppression  of  the  long  pauses  in  the  conversation  ;  and  looked  appeal- 
ingly  to  h'jr  sister  to  fill  them  up.  Miss  Halcombe,  after  once  or  twice 
hesitating  and  checking  herself,  iu  a  most  uncharacteristic  manner,  spoke 
at  last. 

"  I  have  sujn  your  uncle  this  morning,  Laura,'*  she  said.  "  He  thinks 
the  purple  room  is  the  one  that  ought  to  be  got  ready ;  and  he  confirms 
what  I  told  you.    Monday  is  the  day — ^not  Tuesday." 

While  these  words  were  being  spoken,  Miss  Fairlie  looked  down  at  the 
table  beneath  her.  Her  fingers  moved  nervously  among  the  crumbs  that 
were  scattered  on  the  cloth.  The  paleness  on  her  cheeks  spread  to  her  lips, 
and  the  lips  themselves  trembled  visibly.    I  was  not  the  only  perqon  pre- 


THE  WOMAN   IM    WHITE.  49 

nnt  who  notiood  this.  Miss  Halcombe  saw  it,  too ;  and  at  onoo  set  ua  ihi 
example  of  rising  from  table. 

Mrs.  Vesey  and  Miss  Fairlie  left  the  room  together.  The  kind  sorrowfuJ 
blue  eyes  looked  at  me,  for  a  moment,  with  the  prescient  sadness  of  8 
coming  and  a  long  farewell.  I  felt  the  answering  pang  in  my  own  heart— 
the  pang  that  told  me  I  must  lose  her  soon,  and  love  her  the  more  un- 
changeably  for  the  loss. 

I  turned  towards  the  garden,  when  the  door  had  closed  on  her.  MisE 
Ilaloombe  was  standing  with  her  hat  in  her  hand,  and  her  shawl  over  her 
arm,  by  the  large  window  that  led  out  to  the  lawn,  and  was  looking  at  me 
attentively. 

"  Have  you  any  leisure  time  to  spare,"  she  asked,  "  before  you  begin  to 
work  in  your  own  room  ?" 

"  Certainly,  Miss  Halcombe.    I  have  always  time  at  your  service." 

**I  want  to  say  a  word  to  you  in  private,  Mr.  Hartright.  Get  your  hat, 
and  come  out  into  the  garden.  We  are  not  likely  to  be  disturbed  there  at 
this  hour  in  the  morning." 

As  we  stepped  out  on  to  the  laWh,  one  of  the  under-gardeners — a  mere 
lad — ^passed  us  on  his  way  to  the  house,  with  a  letter  in  his  hand.  Miss 
Halcombe  stopped  him. 

**  Is  that  letter  for  me  ?"  she  asked. 

**  Kay,  miss ;  it's  just  said  to  be  for  Miss  Fairlie,"  answered  the  lad,  hold- 
ing out  the  letter  as  he  spoke. 

Miss  Halcombe  took  it  from  him,  ^nd  looked  at  the  address. 

"  A  strange  handwriting,"  she  said  to  heraelf.  "  Who  can  Laura's  cor- 
respondent be  ?  Where  did  you  get  this  ?"  she  continued,  addressing  the 
gardener. 

"  Well,  miss,"  said  the  lad,  "  I  just  got  it  from  a  woman." 

«*  What  woman?" 

"  A  woman  well  stricken  in  age." 

"  Oh,  an  old  woman.    Any  one  you  knew  ?" 

« I  canna'  tak'  it  on  myseP  to  say  that  she  was  other  than  a  stranger  to 

me." 

"  Which  way  did  she  go  ?" 

**  That  gate,"  said  the  under-gardener,  turning  with  great  deliberation 
towards  the  south,  and  embracing  the  whole  of  that  part  of  England  witli 
one  comprehensive  sweep  of  his  arm. 

"  Curious,"  said  Miss  Halcombe ;  "  I  suppose  it  must  be  a  begging- 
letter.  There,"  she  added,  handing  the  letter  back  to  the  lad,  "  take  it  to 
the  house,  and  give  it  to  one  of  the  servants.  And  now,  Mr.  Hartright,  if 
you  have  no  objection,  let  us  walk  this  way." 

Bhe  led  me  across  the  lawn,  along  the  same  path  by  which  I  had  followed 
hiT  on  the  day  after  my  arrival  at  Limmeridge.    At  the  little  summer- 


50  THB  WOMAN  Uf  WHITC. 

bouse  in  which  Laura  Fairlie  and  I  had  first  seen  each  other,  she  stopped, 
and  broke  the  silence  which  she  had  steadily  maintained  whiJe  we  were 
walking  together. 

"  What  I  have  to  say  to  you,  I  can  say  here." 

With  those  words,  she  entered  the  summer-house,  took  one  of  the  chairs 
^*  the  little  round  table  inside,  and  signed  to  mo  to  take  the  other.  I  sus- 
jX^cted  what  was  coming  when  she  spoke  to  me  in  the  breakfast-room ;  I 
felt  certain  of  it  now. 

**  Mr.  Hartright,"  she  said,  "  1  am  going  to  begin  by  making  a  frank 
avowal  to  you.  I  am  going  to  saj' — ^without  phrase-making,  which  I 
detest;  or  paying  compliments,  which  I  heartily  despise — that  I  have 
come,  in  the  course  of  your  residence  with  us,  to  feel  a  strong  friendly 
regard  for  you.  I  was  predisposed  in  your  favour  when  you  first  told  me 
of  your  conduct  towards  that  unhappy  woman  whom  you  met  under  such 
remarkable  circumstances.  Your  management  of  the  afiSur  might  not  have 
been  prudent ;  but  it  showed  the  self-control,  the  delicacy,  and  the  com- 
passion of  a  man  who  was  naturally  a  gentleman.  It  made  me  expect 
good  things  from  you ;  and  you  have  not  disappointed  my  expectations." 

She  paused — ^but  held  up  her  hand  at  the  same  time,  as  a  sign  that  she 
awaited  no  answer  from  me  before  she  proceeded.  When  I  entered  the 
summer-house,  no  thought  was  in  me  of  the  woman  in  white.  But,  now, 
Miss  Haloombe's  own  words  hod  put  the  memory  of  my  adventure  back  in 
my  mind.  It  remained  there  throughout  the  interview — ^remained,  and 
not  without  a  result. 

"  As  your  friend,"  she  proceeded,  "  I  am  going  to  tell  you,  at  once,  in 
my  own  plain,  blunt,  downright  language,  that  I  have  discovered  your 
secret— without  help,  or  hint,  mind,  from  any  one  else.  Mr.  Hartright, 
you  have  thoughtlessly  allowed  yourself  to  form  an  attachment — ^a  serioua 
and  devoted  attachment,  I  am  afraid — ^to  my  sister,  Laura.  I  don't  put 
you  to  the  pain  of  confessing  it,  in  so  many  words,  because  I  see  and  know 
that  you  are  too  honest  to  deny  it.  I  don't  even  blame  you — ^I  pity  you 
for  opening  your  heart  to  a  hopeless  affection.  You  have  not  attempted  to 
take  any  underhand  advantage — ^you  have  not  spoken  to  my  sister  in 
secret.  You  are  guilty  of  weakness  and  want  of  attention  to  your  own 
best  interests,  but  of  nothing  worse.  If  you  had  acted,  in  any  single 
respect,  less  delicately  and  less  modestly,  I  should  have  told  you  to  leave 
the  house,  without  an  instant's  notice,  or  an  instant's  consultation  of  any- 
body. As  it  is,  I  bkme  the  misfortune  of  your  years  and  your  position — ^I 
don't  blame  you.  Shake  hands— I  have  given  you  pain ;  1  am  going  to 
give  you  more ;  but  there  is  no  help  for  it^hake  hands  with  your  fiiend, 
Marian  Halcombe,  first." 

The  sudden  kindness — the  warm,  high-minded,  fearless  sympathy  which 
met  me  on  such  mercifully-equal  terms^  which  appealed  with  such  delicate 


THE  WOMAN  IK  WHITE.  51 

Mid  generoas  abmptaesa  straight  to  my  heart,  my  honour,  and  my  courage, 
oveieame  me  in  an  instant.  I  tried  to  look  at  her,  when  she  took  my 
hand,  but  my  eyes  were  dim.  I  tried  to  thank  her,  but  my  voice  failed 
me. 

''Listen  to  me,"  she  said,  considerately  avoiding  all  notice  of  my  loss  of 
self-control.  ^  Listen  to  me,  and  let  us  get  it  over  at  once.  It  is  a  real 
true  relief  to  me  that  I  am  not  obliged,  in  what  I  have  now  to  say,  to  enter 
into  the  question — ^the  hard  and  cruel  question  as  I  think  it— of  social  in- 
equalities. Oircumstances  which  will  try  you  to  the  quick,  spare  me  the 
ungracious  necessity  of  paining  a  man  who  has  lived  iu  friendly  intimacy 
under  the  same  roof  with  myself  by  any  hnmiliating  reference  to  matters 
of  rank  and  station.  You  must  leave  Limmeridge  House,  Mr.  Hartright, 
before  more  harm  is  done.  It  is  my  duty  to  say  that  to  you ;  and  it 
would  be  equally  my  duty  to  say  it,  imder  precisely  the  same  serious 
necessity,  if  you  were  the  representative  of  the  oldest  and  wealthiest  family 
in  England.  You  must  leave  us,  not  because  you  are  a  teacher  of  draw- 
ina ^»» 

o 

She  waited  a  moment ;  turned  her  face  full  on  me ;  and,  reaching  across 
the  table,  laid  her  hand  firmly  on  my  arm. 

"  Not  because  you  are  a  teacher  of  drawing,"  she  repeated,  "but  because 
Xiaura  Fairlie  is  engaged  to  be  married." 

The  last  word  went  like  a  bullet  to  my  heart.  My  arm  lost  all  sensation 
of  the  hand  that  grasped  it.  -  I  never  moved  and  never  spoke.  The  sharp 
autumn  breeze  that  scattered  the  dead  leaves  at  our  feet,  came  as  cold  to 
me,  on  a  sudden,  as  if  my  own  mad  hopes  were  dead  leaves,  too,  whirled 
away  by  the  wind  like  the  rest.  Hopes  I  Betrothed,  or  not  betrothed,  she 
was  equally  far  from  nie.  Would  other  men  have  remembered  that  in  my 
place  ?    Not  if  they  had  loved  her  as  I  did. 

The  pang  passed  ;  and  nothing'but  the  dull  numbing  pain  of  it  remained. 
I  felt  Miss  Halcombe's  hand  again,  tightening  its  hold  on  my  arm — ^I 
raised  my  head,  and  looked  iat  her.  Her  large  black  eyes  were  rooted  on 
me,  watching  the  white  dlange  on  my  face,  which  I  felt,  and  which  she 
saw. 

** Crush  it!"  she  said.  "Here,  where  you  first  saw  her,  crush  it! 
Don't  shrink  under  it  like  a  woman.  Tear  it  out ;  trample  it  tmder  foot 
like  a  man !" 

The  suppressed  vehemence  with  which  she  spoke ;  the  strength  which 
her  will~~concentrated  in  the  look  she  fixed  on  me,  and  in  the  hold  on  my 
arm  that  she  had  not  yet  relinquished— conmiunicated  to  mine,  steadied 
me.  We  both  waited  for  a  minute,  in  silence.  At  the  end  of  that  time,  I 
had  justified  her  generous  £uth  in  my  manhood  $  I  had,  outwardly  at  leasts 
recovered  my  self-control. 
**  Are  you  yourself  again  ?* 


M  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE 

**  Enough  myself.  Miss  Haloombe,  to  ask  yonr  pardon  and  hen.  Enough 
myself,  to  be  guided  by  your  advioe,  and  to  prove  my  gratitude  in  that 
way,  if  I  can  prove  it  in  no  other." 

**  You  have  proved  it  already,"  she  answered,  "  by  those  words.     Mr. 
Hartright,  concealment  is  at  an  end  between  us,    I  cannot  affect  to  bide 
from  you,  what  my  sister  has  unconsciously  shown  to  me.    You  must  leave 
us  for  her  sake,  as  well  as  for  your  own.    Your  presence  here,  your  neces- 
sary intimacy  with  us,  harmless  as  it  has  been,  God  knows,  in  all  other 
respects,  has  unsteadied  her  and  made  her  wretched.    I,  who  love  her 
better  than  my  own  life — I,  who  have  learnt  to  believe  in  that  pure,  noble, 
innocent  nature  as  I  believe  in  my  religion — ^know  but  too  well  the  secret 
misery  of  self-reproach  that  she  has  been  suffering,  since  the  first  shadow 
of  a  feeling  disloyal  to  her  marriage  engagement  entered  her  heart  in  spite 
of  her.    I  don't  say — ^it  would  be  useless  to  attempt  to  say  it,  after  what 
has  happened — that  her  engagement  has  ever  had  a  strong  hold  on  her 
affections.    It  is  an  engagement  of  honour,  not  of  love — ^her  father  sano- 
tioned  it  on  his  death-bed,  two  years  since — she  herself  neither  welcomed 
it,  nor  shrank  from  it — she  was  content  to  make  it.    Till  you  came  here, 
she  was  in  the  position  of  hundreds  of  other  women,  who  marry  men  with- 
out being  greatly  attracted  to  them  or  greatly  repelled  by  them,  and  who 
leam  to  love  them  (when  they  don't  learn  to  hate !)  after  marriage,  instead 
of  before.    I  hope  more  earnestly  than  words  can  say — ^and  you  should 
have  the  self-sacrificing  courage  to  hope  too— that  the  new  thoughts  and 
feelings  which,  have  disturbed  the  old  calmness  and  the  old  content,  have 
not  taken  root  too  deeply  to  be  ever  removed.    Your  absence  (if  I  had  less 
belief  in  your  honour,  and  your  courage,  and  your  sense,  I  should  not  trust 
to  them  as  I  am  trusting  now) — your  absence  will  help  my  efforts ;  and 
time  will  help  us  all  three.    It  is  something  to  know  that  my  first  confi- 
dence in  you  was  not  all  misplaced.    It  is  something  to  know  that  you 
will  not  be  less  honest,  less  manly,  less  considerate  towards  the  pupil  whose 
relation  to  yourself  you  have  had  the  misfortune  to  forget,  than  towards 
the  stranger  and  the  outcast  whose  appeal  to  you  was  not  made  in  vain." 

Again  the  chance  reference  to  the  woman  in  white!  Was  there  no 
possibility  of  speaking  of  Miss  FairUo  and  of  me  without  raising  the 
memory  of  Anne  Gatherick,  and  setting  her  between  us  like  a  fatality  that 
it  was  hopeless  to  avoid  ? 

"Tell  me  what  apology  I  can  mako  to  Mr.  Fairlie  for  breaking  my 
engagement,"  I  said.  **  Tell  me  when  to  go  after  that  apology  is  accepted. 
I  promise  implicit  obedience  to  you  and  to  your  advice." 

« Time  is,  every  way,  of  importance,"  she  answered.  "  You  heard  me 
refer  this  morning  to  Monday  next,  and  to  the  necessity  of  setting  the 
purple  room  in  order.    The  visitor  whom  we  except  on  Monday ^" 

I  could  not  wait  for  her  to  be  more  explicit.    Knowing  what  I  knew 


THIS   WOMAN   IK  WHITK.  63 

now,  the  memory  of  Miss  Furlie's  look  and  manner  at  the  breakfasfc-tablo 
told  me  that  the  expected  visitor  at  Limmeridge  Hotise  was  her  future 
lusband.  I  tried  to  force  it  back ;  but  something  rose  within  me  at  that 
ffloment  stronger  than  my  own  will ;  and  J  interrupted  Miss  Halcombe. 

"Let  me  go  to-day,"  I  said,  bitterly.    **  The  sooner  the  better.** 

^  No ;  not  to-day,'*  she  replied.  ^  The  only  reason  you  can  assign  to 
Mr.  Fairlie  for  your  departure,  before  the  end  of  your  engagement,  must  be 
that  an  unforeseen  necessity  compels  you  to  ask  his  permission  to  retiun  at 
oDoe  to  London.  You  must  wait  till  to-morrow  to  tell  him  tbat^  at  the 
time  when  the  post  comes  in,  because  ho  will  then  understand  the  sudden 
change  in  your  plans,  by  associating  it  with  the  arrival  of  a  letter  from 
Ix)ndon.  It  is  miserable  and  sickening  to  descend  to  deceit,  even  of  the 
most  hai-mless  kind-^but  I  know  Mr.  Fairlie,  and  if  you  once  excite  his 
suspicions  that  you  are  trifling  with  him,  he  will  refuse  to  release  you« 
Speak  to  him  on  Friday  morning ;  occupy  yourself  afterwards  (for  the  sake 
of  your  own  interests  with  your  employer),  in  leaving  your  unfinished  work 
in  as  little  confusion  as  possible ;  and  quit  this  place  on  Saturday.  It  will 
be  time  enough,  then,  Mr.  Hartright,  for  you,  and  for  all  of  us.** 

Before  I  could  assure  her  that  she  might  depend  on  my  acting  in  the 
strictest  accordance  with  her  wishes,  we  were  both  startled  by  advancing 
footsteps  in  the  shrubbery.  Some  one  was  coming  from  the  house  to  seek 
for  us !  I  felt  the  blood  rush  into  my  cheeks,  and  then  leave  them  again. 
Could  the  third  person  who  was  flEust  approaching  us,  at  such  a  time  and 
under  such  circumstances,  be  Miss  Fairlie  ? 

It  was  a  relief— so  sadly,  so  hopelessly  was  my  position  towards  her 
changed  already — ^it  was  absolutely  a  relief  to  me,  when  the  person  who 
had  disturbed  us  appeared  at  the  entrance  of  the  summer*house,  and  proved 
to  be  only  Miss  Fairlie's  maid. 

"Could  I  speak  to  you  for  a  moment,  miss?"  said  the  girl,  in  rather  a 
flurried,  unsettled  manner. 

Miss  Halcombe  descended  the  steps  into  the  shrubbery,  and  walked  aside 
a  few  paces  with  the  maid. 

Left  by  myself,  my  mind  reverted,  with  a  sense  of  forlorn  wretchedness 
which  it  is  not  in  any  words  that  I  can  find  to  describe,  to  my  approaching 
return  to  the  solitude  and  the  despair  of  my  lonely  London  home.  Thoughts 
of  my  kind  old  mother,  and  of  my  sister,  who  had  rejoiced  with  her  so 
innocently  over  my  prospects  in  Cumberland — thoughts  whose  long  banish- 
ment from  my  heart  it  was  now  my  shame  and  my  reproach  to  realise  for 
the  first  time— came  back  to  me  with  the  loving  moumfulness  of  old, 
neglected  friends.  My  mother  and  my  sister,  what  would  they  feel  when 
I  returned  to  them  from  my  broken  engagement,  with  the  confession  of  my 
miserable  secret — they  who  had  parted  from  me  so  hopefully  on  that  last 
happy  night  in  the  Hampstead  cottage  I 


64  THE  WOMAT!r  m   WHIT£« 

Anue  CaUiorick  again  I  Even  the  memory  of  the  farewell  evening  with 
my  mother  and  my  sister  could  not  return  to  me  now,  unconnected  -with 
that  other  memory  of  the  moonlight  walk  back  to  London.  What  did  it 
mean  ?  Were  that  woman  and  I  to  meet  once  more  ?  It  was  possible,  at 
the  least.  Did  she  kuow  that  I  lived  in  London  ?  Yes ;  I  had  told  her 
BO,  either  before  or  after  that  strange  question  of  her»,  when  she  had  asked 
me  so  distrustfully  if  I  knew  many  men  of  the  rank  of  Baronet.  Either 
before  or  after — ^my  mind  was  not  ©aim  enough,  then,  to  remember  which. 

A  few  minutes  elapsed  before  Miss  Halcombe  dismissed  the  maid  and 
came  back  to  me.    She,  top,  looked  flurried  and  unsettled,  now. 

"We  have  arranged  all  that  is  necessary,  Mr.  Hartright,'*  she^^said. 
"  We  have  understood  each  other,  as  friends  should ;  and  we  may  go  back 
at  once  to  the  house.  To  tell  you  the  truth,  I  am  uneasy  about  Lauxa. 
She  has  sent  to  say  she  wants  to  see  me  directly ;  and  the  maid  reports 
that  her  mistress  is  apparently  very  much  agitated  by  a  letter  that  she  has 
rtxjeived  this  morning — the  same  letter,  no  doubt,  which  I  sent  on  to  the 
house  before  we  came  here." 

We  retraced  our  steps  together  hastily  along  the  shrubbery  path.  Al- 
though Miss  Halcombe  had  ended  all  that  she  thought  it  necessary  to  say, 
on  her  side,  I  had  not  ended  all  that  I  wanted  to  say  on  mine.  From  the 
moment  when  I  had  discovered  that  the  expected  visitor  at  Limmeridge 
was  Miss  Pairlie'S  future  husband,  I  had  felt  a  bitter  curiosity,  a  bnining 
envious  eagerness,  to  know  who  he  was.  It  was  possible  that  a  future 
opportunity  of  putting  the  question  might  not  easily  offer;  so  I  risked 
asking  it  on  our  way  back  to  the  house. 

"  Now-  that  you  are  kind  enough  to  tell  me  we  have  underatood  each 
other,  Miss  Halcombe,"  I  said ;  *'  now  that  you  are  sure  of  my  gratitude  for 
your  forbearance  and  my  obedience  to  your  wishes,  may  I  venture  to  ask 
who  " — (I  hesitated ;  I  had  forced  myself  to  tlunk  of  him,  but  it  was  harder 
still  to  speak  of  him,  as  her  promised  husband)—**  who  the  gentleman 
engaged  to  Miss  Fairlie,  is  V* 

Her  mind  was  evidently  occupied  with  the  message  she  had  received  from 
her  isister.    She  answered,  in  a  hasty,  absent  way : 

**  A  gentleman  of  large  property,  in  Hampshire." 

Hampshire  I  Anne  Catherick's  native  place.  Again,  and  yet  again,  the 
woman  in  white.    There  tvas  a  £»tality  in  it 

*'  And  his  name?"  I  said,  as  quietly  and  indifferently  as  I  could. 

«  Sur  Percival  Glyde.'' 

Sir — Sir  Percival  1  Anne  Gatherick's  question — ^that  suspicious  question 
about  the  men  of  the  rank  of  Baronet  whom  I  might  happen  to  know — ^had 
nardly  been  dismissed  from  my  mind  by  Miss  Halcombe's  return  to  me  in 
the  sxunmer-house,  before  it  was  recalled  again  by  her  own  answer.  I 
stopped  suddenly,  and  looked  at  her* 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  55 

**Sir  Perdval  Glyde,**  she  repeated,  imagining  that  I  bad  not  heard  hor 
former  reply. 

''Enlghi^  or  Baronet?^  I  asked,  with  an  agitation  that  I  could  hide  no 
amger. 
She  paused  for  a  moment,  and  .then  answered,  rather  coldly : 
"Baronet,  of  course." 

XI. 
Not  a  word  more  was  said,  on  either  side,  as  we  walked  back  to  the  hoiue. 
Miss  Halcombe  hastened  immediately  to  her  sister's  room ;  and  I  withdrew 
to  my  stndio  to  set  in  order  all  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  drawings  that  I  had  not  yet 
monnted  and  restored  before  I  resigned  them  to  the  care  of  other  handir« 
Thoughts  that  I  had  hitherto  restraioed,  thoughts  that  made  my  position 
harder  than  ever  to  endure,  crowded  on  me  now  that  I  was  alone. 

She  was  engaged  to  be  married ;  and  her  future  husband  was  Sir  Percival 
Glyde.  A  man  of  the  rank  of  baronet,  and  the  owner  of  property  in 
Hampshire. 

There  were  hundreds  of  baronets  in  England,  and  dozens  of  landownen 
in  Hampshire.     Judging  by  the  ordinary  rules  of  evidence,  I  had  not  the 
shadow  of  a  reason,  thus  fkr,  for  connecting  Sir  Percival  Glyde  with  the 
BDspicious  words  of  inquiry  that  had  been  spoken  to  me  by  the  woman  in 
white.    And  yet,  I  did  connect  him  with  them.     Was  it  because  he  had 
now  become  associated  in  my  mind  with  Miss  Fairlie ;  Miss  Fairlie  being, 
in  her  turn,  associated  with  Anne  Gatherick,  since  the  night  when  I  had 
discovered  the  ominous  liken^  between  them?    Had  the  events  of  the 
morning  so  unnerved  me  already  that  I  was  at  the  mercy  of  any  delusion 
which  conmion  chances  and  common  coincidences  might  suggest  to  my 
imagination  ?    Impossible  to  s&y.    I  could  only  feel  that  what  had  passed 
between  Miss  Halcombe  and  myself,  on  our  way  from  the  summer-house, 
had  affected  me  very  strangely.    The  foreboding  of  some  undiscoverable 
danger  lying  hid  from  us  all  in  the  darkness  of  the  future,  was  strong  on 
me.    The  doubt  whether  I  was  not  linked  already  to  a  chain  of  events 
which  even  my  approaching  departure  from  Gumberland  would  be  power- 
less to  snap  asunder — ^the  doubt  whether  we  any  of  us  saw  the  end  as  the 
end  would  really  be — gathered  more  and  more  darkly  over  my  mind. 
Poignant  as  it  was,  the  sense  of  suffering  caused  by  the  miserable  end  of 
my  brief,  presimiptuous  love,  seemed  to  be  blunted  and  deadened  by  the 
still  stronger  sense  of  something  obscurely  impending,  something  invisibly 
threatening,  that  Time  was  holding  over  our  heads. 

I  had  been  engaged  with  the  drawings  httle  more  than  half  an  hour, 
when  there  was  a  knock  at  the  door.  It  opened,  on  my  answering ;  and, 
to  my  surprise,  Miss  ^alcombe  entered  the  room. 

Her  manner  was  angry  and  agitated.  She  caught  up  a  chair  for  heraelf^ 
before  I  could  give  her  one ;  and  sat  down  in  it,  close  at  my  side. 


60  Tn£  WOMAN   IN   WHITK. 

• 

**  Mr«  Hartriglit/'  she  said,  **  I  had  hoped  that  all  painful  subjcctii  of 
oonyersation  were  exhausted  between  us,  for  to-day  at  least.  But  it  la  not 
to  be  so.  There  is  some  underhand  villany  at  work  to  frighten  my  sister 
about  her  approaching  marriage.  You  saw  me  send  the  gardener  on  to 
the  house,  with  a  letter  addressed,  in  a  strange  handwriting,  to  Miss 
FairUe?" 

"  Certainly." 

**  The  letter  is  an  anonymous  letter — a  vile  attempt  to  injure  Sir  Perdval 
Glyde  in  my  sister's  estimation.  It  has  so  agitated  and  alarmed  her  that 
I  have  had  the  greatest  possible  difficulty  in  composing  her  spirits  suffi-> 
ciently  to  allow  me  to  leave  her  room  and  come  here.  I  know  this  is  a 
family  matter  on  which  I  ought  not  to  consult  you,  and  in  which  you  can 
feel  no  concern  or  interest—" 

**I  beg  your  pardon,  Miss  Halcombe.  I  feel  the  strongest  possible 
concern  and  interest  in  anything  that  affects  Miss  FairUe's  happiness  or 
yours." 

*'  I  am  glad  to  hear  you  say  so.  You  are  the  only  person  in  the  house, 
or  out  of  it,  who  can  advise  me.  Mr.  Fairlie,  in  his  state  of  health  and 
with  his  horror  of  difficulties  and  mysteries  of  jdl  kinds,  is  not  to  be  thought 
of.  The  clergyman  is  a  good,  weak  man,  who  knows  nothing  out  of  the 
iioutine  of  his  duties;  and  our  neighbours  are  just  the  sort  of  comfortable, 
jog-trot  acquaintances  whom  one  cannot  disturb  in  times  of  trouble  and 
danger.  What  I  want  to  know  is  this :  ought  I,  at  once,  to  take  such 
steps  as  I  can  to  discover  the  writer  of  the  letter  ?  or  ought  I  to  wait,  and 
apply  to  Mr.  Fairlie's  legal  adviser  to-morrow  ?  It  is  a  question — perhaps 
a  very  important  one — of  gaining  or  losing  a  day.  Tell  me  what  you 
think,  Mr.  Hartright.  If  necessity  had  not  already  obliged  me  to  take  you 
ftito  my  confidence  under  very  delicate  circumstances,  even  my  helpless 
situation  would,  perhaps,  be  no  excuse  for  me.  But,  as  things  are,  I  cannot 
surely  be  wrong,  after  all  that  has  passed  between  us,  in  forgetting  that 
you  are  a  friend  of  only  three  months'  standing." 

She  gave  me  the  letter.  It  began  abruptly,  without  any  preliminary 
foim  of  address,  as  follows : 

"  Do  you  believe  in  dreams  ?  I  hope,  for  your  own  sake,  that  you  da 
See  what  Scripture  says  about  dreams  and  their  fulfihnent  (Genesis  xl.  8., 
xli.  25 ;  Daniel  iv.  18-25) ;  and  take  the  warning  I  send  you  before  it  is 
too  late. 

"Last  night,  I  dreamed  about  you.  Miss  Fairlie.  I  dreamed  that  1 
was  standing  inside  the  communion  rails  of  a  church  :  I  on  one  side  of  the 
altar-table,  and  the  clergyman,  with  his  surplice  and  his  prayer-book,  on 
the  other. 

**  After  a  time,  there  walked  towards  us,  down  the  aisle  of  the  churo  bt  a 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE,  57 

man  and  a  woman,  coming  to  be  married.  You  were  the  woman.  You 
looked  80  pretty  and  innocent  in  your  beautiful  white  silk  dress,  and  your 
long  white  laoe  yeil,  that  my  heart  felt  for  you  and  the  tears  came  into 
my  eyes. 

"  They  were  tears  of  pity,  young  lady,  that  heaven  blesses ;  and, 
instead  of  falling  from  my  eyes  like  the  every-day  tears  that  we  all  of  us 
shed,  ihey  turned  into  two  rays  of  light  which  slanted  nearer  and  nearer 
to  the  man  standing  at  the  altar  with  you,  till  they  touched  his  breast. 
The  two  rays  sprang  in  arches  like  two  rainbows,  between  me  and  him.  I 
looked  along  them ;  and  I  saw  down  into  his  inmost  heart. 

"  The  outside  of  the  man  you  were  marrying  was  fair  enough  to  see. 
He  was  neither  tall,  nor  short — he  was  a  little  below  the  middle  size.  A 
light,  active,  high-spirited  man — ^about  five-and-forty  years  old,  to  look  at. 
He  had  a  pale  face,  and  was  bald  over  the  forehead,  but  had  dark  hair  on 
the  rest  of  his  head.  His  beard  was  shaven  on  his  chin,  but  was  let  to 
grow,  of  a  fine  rich  brown,  on  his  cheeks  and  his  upper  lip.  His  eyes 
were  brown  too,  and  very  bright ;  his  noise  straight  and  handsome  and 
delicate  enough  to  have  done  for  a  woman's.  His  hands  the  same.  He 
was  troubled  from  time  to  time  with  a  dry  hacking  cough  ;  and  when  he 
put  up  his  white  right  hand  to  his  mouth,  he  showed  the  red  scar  of  an  old 
wound  across  the  back  of  it.  Have  I  dreamt  of  the  right  man?  You 
know  best.  Miss  Fairlie ;  and  you  can  say  if  I  was  deceived  or  not.  Eead, 
next,  what  I  saw  beneath  the  outside — ^I  entreat  you,  read,  and  profit. 

'*  I  looked  along  the  two  rays  of  light ;  and  I  saw  down  into  his  inmost 
heart.  It  was  black  as  night ;  and  on  it  were  written,  in  the  red  flaming 
letters  which  are  the  handwriting  of  the  fallen  angel :  *  Without  pity  and 
without  remorse.  He  has  strewn  with  misery  the  paths  of  others,  and  he 
will  live  to  strew  with  misery  the  path  of  this  woman  by  his  side.'  I  read 
that ;  and  then  the  rays  of  light  shifted  and  pointed  over  his  shoulder ; 
and  there,  behind  him,  stood  a  fiend,  laughing.  And  the  rays  of  light 
shifted  once  more,  and  pointed  over  your  shoulder ;  and  there,  behind  you, 
stood  an  angel  weeping.  And  the  rays  of  light  sliifted  for  the  third  time, 
and  pointed  straight  between  you  and  that  man.  They  widened  and 
widened,  thrusting  you  both  asunder,  one  from  the  other.  And  the 
clergyman  looked  for  the  marriage-service  in  vain :  it  was  gone  out  of  the 
book,  and  he  shut  up  the  leaves,  and  put  it  from  him  in  despair.  And  I 
woke  with  my  eyes  full  of  tears  and  my  heart  beating — for  I  beUeve  in 
dreams. 

**  Believe,  too,  Miss  Fairlie — I  beg  of  you,  for  your  own  sake,  believe  as 
( do.  Joseph  and  Daniel,  and  others  in  Scripture,  believed  in  dreams. 
Inquire  into  the  past  life  of  that  man  with  the  scar  on  his  hand,  before 
70U  say  the  words  that  make  you  his  miserable  wife.  I  don't  give  you 
this  warning  on  my  account^  but  on  yours,    I  have  an  interest  in  your  we^ ' 


58  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITS. 

being  that  will  live  as  long  as  I  draw  breath.  Tour  mother's  daughter  baa 
a  tender  place  in  my  heart — for  your  mother  was  my  first,  my  besty  my 
only  friend." 

There,  the  extraordinary  letter  ended,  without  signature  of  any  sort. 

The  handwriting  afforded  no  prospect  of  a  due.  It  was  traced  on  ruled 
lines,  in  the  cramped,  conventional,  copybook  character,  technically  termed 
"  small  hand."  It  was  feeble  and  faint,  and  defaced  by  blots,  but  had 
otherwise  nothing  to  distinguish  it. 

**  That  is  not  an  illiterate  letter,"  said  Miss  Haloombe,  "  and,  at  the 
same  time,  it  is  surely  too  incoherent  to  be  the  letter  of  an-  educated  person 
in  the  higher  ranks  of  life.  The  reference  to  the  bridal  dress  and  veil,  and 
other  little  expressions,  seem  to  point  to  it  as  the  production  of  some 
woman.    What  do  you  think,  Mr.  Hartright  ?" 

**  1  think  so  too.  It  seems  to  me  to  be  not  only  the  letter  of  a  woman, 
but  of  a  woman  whose  mind  must  be J* 

**  Deranged  ?"  suggested  Miss  Haloombe.  "  It  struck  me  in  that  light, 
too." 

I  did  not  answer.  While  I  was  speaking,  my  eyes  rested  on  the  last 
sentence  of  the  letter  t  *'  Your  mother's  daughter  has  a  tender  place  in  my 
heart — ;for  your  mother  was  my  first,  my  best,  my  only  friend."  Those 
words  and  the  doubt  which  had  just  escaped  me  as  to  the  sanity  of  the 
writer  of  the  letter,  acting  together  on  my  mind,  suggested  an  idea,  which 
I  was  literally  afraid  to  express  openly,  or  even  to  encourage  secretly.  I 
began  to  doubt  whether  my  own  faculties  were  not  in  danger  of  losing  their 
balance.  It  seemed  almost  like  a  monomania  to  be  tracing  back  everything 
strange  that  happened,  everything  unexpected  that  was  said,  always  to  the 
same  hidden  source  and  the  same  sinister  influence.  I  resolved,  this  time, 
in  defence  of  my  own  courage  and  my  own  sense,  to  come  to  no  decision 
that  plain  fact  did  not  warrant,  and  to  turn  my  back  resolutely  on  every- 
thing that  tempted  me  in  the  shape  of  surmise. 

"  If  we  have  any  chance  of  tracing  the  person  who  has  written  this,"  I 
said,  returning  the  letter  to  Miss  Haloombe,  *'  there  can  be  no  harm  in 
seizing  our  opportunity  the  moment  it  offers.  I  think  we  ought  to  speak 
to  the  gardener  again  about  the  elderly  woman  who  gave  him  the  letter, 
and  then  to  continue  our  inquiries  in  the  village.  But  first  let  me  ask  a 
question.  You  mentioned  just  now  the  alternative  of  consulting  Mr. 
Fairlie*s  legal  adviser  to-morrow.  Is  there  no  possibility  of  commumcating 
mih.  him  earlier  ?    Why  not  to-day  ?*' 

"  I  can  only  explain,"  replied  Miss  Haloombe,  "  by  entering  into  cer- 
tain particulars,  connected  with  my  sister's  marriage  engagement,  which 
I  did  not  think  it  necessary  or  desirable  to  mention  to  you  this  morning. 
One  of  Sir  Fercival  Glyde's  objects  in  coming  here,  on  Monday,  is  to  fix 


THE  WOMAN  lH   WillTE.  59 

the  period  of  his  marriage,  which  has  hitherto  been  left  quite  unsettled. 
He  is  anxious  that  the  event  should  take  place  before  the  end  of  the 
year." 
"  Does  Miss  Fairlie  know  of  that  wish  ?"  I  asked,  eagerly* 
"  She  has  no  suspicion  of  it ;  and,  after  what  has  happened,  I  shall  not 
take  the  responsibility  upon  myself  of  enlightening  her.  Sir  Percival  has 
only  mentioned  his  views  to  Mr.  Fairlie,  who  has  told  me  himself  that  he 
is  ready  and  anxious,  as  Laura's  guardian,  to  forward  them.  He  has 
written  to  London,  to  the  family  solicitor,  Mr.  Gilmore.  Mr.  Gilmore 
happens  to  be  away  in  Glasgow  on  business ;  and  he  has  replied  by  pro- 
posing to  stop  at  Limmeridge  House,  on  his  way  back  to  town.  He  will 
arrive  to-morrow,  and  will  stay  with  us  a  few  days,  so  as  to  allow  Sir 
Percival  tinie  to  plead  his  own  cause.  If  he  succeeds,  Mr.  Gilmore  will  then 
return  to  London,  taking  with  him  his  instructions  for  my  sister's  marriage- 
settlement.  You  understand  now,  Mr.  Hartright,  why  I  sx)eak  of  waiting 
to  take  legal  advice  until  to-morrow  ?  Mr.  Gilmore  is  the  old  and  trie<' 
friend  of  two  generations  of  Fairlies ;  and  we  can  trust  him,  as  we  couU 
trust  no  one  else." 

The  marriage-settlement  I  The  mere  hearing  of  those  two  words  stung 
me  with  a  jealous  despair  that  was  poison  to  my  higher  and  better 
instincts.  1  began  to  think — it  is  hard  to  confess  this,  but  I  must  suppress 
nothing  from  beginning  to  end  of  the  terrible  story  that  I  now  stand  com- 
mitted to  reveal — ^I  began  to  think,  with  a  hateful  eagerness  of  hope,  of 
the  vague  charges  against  Sir  Percival  Glyde  which  the  anonymous  letter 
contained.  What  if  those  wild  accusations  rested  on  a  foundation  of  truth  ? 
What  if  their  truth  could  be  proved  before  the  fatal  words  of  consent  were 
spoken,  and  the  marriage-settlement  was  drawn  ?  I  have  tried  to  think, 
since,  that  the  feeling  which  then  animated  me  began  and  ended  in  pure 
devotion  to  Miss  Fairlie's  interests.  But  I  have  never  succeeded  in  de- 
ceiving myself  into  believing  it :  and  I  must  not  now  attempt  to  deceive 
others.  The  feeling  began  and  ended  in  reckless,  vindictive,  hopeless 
hatred  of  the  man  who  was  to  marry  her. 

"  If  wo  are  to  find  out  anything,*'  I  said,  speaking  under  the  new  in- 
fluence which  was  now  directing  me,  **  we  had  better  not  let  another 
minute  slip  by  us  unemployed.  I  can  only  suggest,  once  more,  the  pro- 
priety of  questioning  the  gardener  a  second  time,  and  of  inquiring  in  the 
village  immediately  afterwards." 

"  I  think  I  may  be  of  help  to  you  in  both  cases,"  said  Miss  Halcombe^ 
rising.  "  Let  us  go,  Mr.  Hartright,  at  once,  and  do  the  best  we  can 
together." 

I  had  the  door  in  my  hand  to  open  it  for  her — ^but  I  stopped,  on  a 
sudden,  to  ask  an  important  question  before  we  set  forth. 
**  One  of  the  paragraphs  of  the  anonymous  letter,"  I  said,  "  contains 


60  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

aome  senteuoes  of  minnte  personal  description.    Sir  Fercival  Glyde's  name 
is  not  mentioned,  I  know-^ut  does  that  description  at  all  resemble  him  ?*' 

"  Accurately  ;  even  in  stating  his  age  to  be  forty-five — ** 

Forty-five ;  and  she  was  not  yet  twenty-one !  Men  of  his  age  married 
wives  of  her  age  every  day  :  and  experience  had  shown  those  marriages  to 
be  often  the  happiest  ones.  I  knew  that — ^and  yet  even  the  mention  of  his 
age,  when  I  contrasted  it  with  hers,  added  to  my  blind  hatred  and  distrust 
of  him. 

*'  Accurately,**  Miss  Halcombe  continued,  **  even  to  the  scar  on  his  right 
hand,  which  is  the  scar  of  a  wound  that  he  received  years  since  when  he 
was  travelling  in  Italy.  There  can  be  no  doubt  that  every  peculiarity  o. 
his  personal  appearance  is  thoroughly  well  known  to  the  writer  of  the 
letter." 

^  Even  a  cough  that  he  is  troubled  with  is  mentioned,  if  I  remember 
right  r 

**  Yes,  and  mentioned  correctly.  He  treats  it  lightly  himself,  though  it 
sometimes  makes  his  friends  anxious  about  him." 

**  I  suppose  no  whispers  have  ever  been  heard  against  his  character  ?" 

'*  Mr.  Hartwright  1  I  hope  you  are  not  unjust  enough  to  let  that  in- 
famous letter  influence  you  ?" 

I  felt  the  blood  rush  into  my  cheeks,  for  I  knew  that  it  Juid  in- 
fluenced me. 

'*  I  hope  not,"  I  answered,  confusedly.  ^  Perhaps  I  had  no  right  to  ask 
the  question." 

*•  I  am  not  sorry  you  asked  it,"  she  said,  "  for  it  enables  me  to  do  justice 
to  Sir  Percival's  reputation.  Not  a  whisper,  Mr.  Hartright,  has  ever 
reached  me,  or  my  family,  against  him.  He  has  fought  successfully  two 
contested  elections ;  and  has  come  out  of  the  ordeal  unscathed.  A  man 
who  can  do  that,  in  England,  is  a  man  whose  character  is  established." 

I  opened  the  door  for  her  in  silence,  and  followed  her  out.  She  had  not 
convinced  me.  If  the  recording  angel  had  come  down  from  heaven  to 
confirm  her,  and  had  opened  his  book  to  my  mortal  eyes,  the  recording 
angel  would  not  have  convinced  me. 

We  found  the  gardener  at  work  as  usual.  No  amount  of  questioning 
could  extract  a  single  answer  of  any  impoi*tance  from  the  lad*s  impenetrable 
stupidity.  The  woman  who  had  given  him  the  letter  was  an  elderly 
woman;  she  had  not  spoken  a  word  to  him;  and  she  had  gone  away 
towards  the  south  in  a  great  hurry.  That  was  all  the  gardener  oould 
tell  us. 

The  village  lay  southward  of  the  bouse.  So  to  the  village  we  went 
next 


TOZ  V/OMAN  IK   WHITE.  61 


XII. 
OuB  inquiries  at  Limmeridge  were  patiently  pursued  in  all  directions,  and 
among  all  sorts  and  conditions  of  people.  But  nothing  came  of  tbem. 
Three  of  the  villagers  did  certainly  assure  us  that  they  had  seen  the 
woman;  but  as  they  were  quite  unable  to  describe  her,  and  quite  in- 
capable of  i^eeing  about  the  exact  direction  in  which  she  was  proceeding 
when  they  last  saw  her,  these  three  bright  exceptions  to  the  general  rule  of 
total  ignorance  afforded  no  more  real  assistance  to  us  than  the  mass  of  their 
unhelpfi.ll  and  unobservant  neighbours. 

The  course  of  our  useless  investigations  brought  us,  in  time,  to  the  end 
of  the  village  at  which  the  schools  established  by  Mrs.  Fairlie  were  situated. 
As  we  passed  the  side  of  the  building  appropriated  to  the  use  of  the  boys,  I 
suggested  the  propriety  of  making  a  last  inquiry  of  the  schoolmaster, 
whom  we  might  presume  to  be,  in  virtue  of  his  office,  the  most  intelligent 
man  in  the  place. 

"  I  am  afraid  the  schoolmaster  must  have  been  occupied  with  his 
scholars,"  said  Miss  Halcombe,  '*  just  at  the  time  when  the  woman  passed 
through  the  village,  and  returned  again.    However  we  can  but  try." 

We  entered  the  playground  enclosure,  and  walked  by  the  schoolroom 
window,  to  get  round  to  the  door,  which  was  situated  at  the  back  of  the 
building.     I  stopped  for  a  moment  at  the  window  and  looked  in. 

The  schoolmaster  was  sitting  at  his  high  desk,  with  his  back  to  me, 
apparently  haranguing  the  pupils,  who  were  all  gathered  together  in  front 
of  him,  with  one  exception.  The  one  exception  was  a  sturdy  white-headed 
boy,  standing  apart  from  all  the  rest  on  a  stool  in  a  comer — a  forlorn  Httle 
Crusoe,  isolated  in  his  own  desert  Island  of  solitary  penal  disgrace. 

The  door,  when  we  got  round  to  it,  was  ajar ;  and  the  schoolmaster's 
voioe  Veached  us  plainly,  as  we  both  stopped  for  a  minute  under  the  porch. 

•*  Now,  boys,"  said  the  voice,  **  mind  what  I  tell  you.  If  I  hear  another 
word  spoken  about  ghosts  in  this  school,  it  will  be  Ihe  worst  for  all  of  you. 
There  are  no  such  things  as  ghosts ;  and,  therefore,  any  boy  who  believes 
in  ghosts  believes  in  what  can't  possibly  be ;  and  a  boy  who  belongs  to 
Limmeridge  School,  and  believes  in  what  can't  possibly  be,  sets  up  his  back 
against  reason  and  discipline,  and  must  be  punished  accordingly.  You  all 
see  Jacob  Postlethwaite  standing  up  on  the  stoo}  there  in  disgi*ace.  He  has 
been  punished,  not  because  he  said  he  saw  a  ghost  last  night,  but  because 
he  is  too  impudent  and  too  obstinate  to  listen  to  reason ;  and  because  he 
persists  in  saying  he  saw  the  ghost  after  I  have  told  him  tkat  no  such  throg 
can  possibly  be.  If  nothing  else  will  do,  I  mean  to  cane  the  ghost  out  of 
Jacob  Postlethwaite ;  and  if  the  thing  spreads  among  any  of  the  rest  of  you, 
I  mean  to  go  a  step  farther,  and  cane  the  ghost  out  of  the  whole  school." 

**  We  seem  to  have  chosen  an  awkward  moment  ft>r  our  visit,"  said  Mm 


62  THE  WOMAN  IX  WHITE. 

Halcombe,  pushing  open  the  door,  at  the  end  of  the  schoohnastci'g  addict»| 
and  leading  the  way  in. 

Our  appearance  produced  a  strong  sensation  among  the  boys.  They 
appeared  to  think  that  we  had  arrived  for  the  express  purpose  of  seeing 
Jacob  Postlethwaite  caned. 

**  Go  home  all  of  you  to  dinner,"  said  the  schoolmaster,  "except  Jacob. 
Jacob  must  stop  where  he  is ;  and  the  ghost  may  bring  him  his  dinner,  if 
the  ghost  pleases." 

Jacob's  fortitude  deserted  him  at  the  double  disappearance  of  his  school- 
fellows and  his  prospect  of  dinner.  He  took  his  hands  out  of  his  pockets, 
looked  hard  at  his  knuckles,  raised  them  with  great  deliberation  to  his  eyes, 
and,  when  they  got  there,  ground  them  round  and  round  slowly,  accom- 
panying the  action  by  short^spasms  of  sniffing,  which  followed  each  other 
at  regular  intervals — the  nasal  minute  guns  of  juvenile  distress. 

"  We  came  here  to  ask  you  a  question,  Mr.  Dempster,'*  said  Miss  Hal- 
combe, addressing  the  i^hoolmaster ;  **  and  we  little  expected  to  find  you 
occupied  in  exorcising  a  ghost.  What  does  it  all  mean  ?  What  has  really 
happened?" 

"  That  wicked  boy  has  been  frightening  the  whole  school.  Miss  Halcombe, 
by  declaring  that  he  saw  a  ghost  yesterday  evening,"  answered  the  master. 
'<  And  he  still  persists  in  his  absurd  story,  in  spite  of  all  that  I  can  say  to 
him." 

**  Most  extraordinary,"  said  Miss  Halcombe.  "  I  should  not  have  thought 
it  possible  that  any  of  the  boys  had  imagination  enough  to  see  a  ghost. 
3^  is  a  new  accession  indeed  to  the  hard  labour  of  forming  the  youthful 
mind  at  Limmeridge — ^and  I  heartily  wish  you  well  through  it,  Mr. 
Dempster.  In  the  mean  time,  let  me  explain  why  you  see  me  here^  and 
what  it  is  I  want." 

She  then  put  the  same  question  to  the  schoolmaster,  which  we  had  asked 
already  of  almost  every  one  else  in  the  village.  It  was  met  by  the  same 
discouraging  answer.  Mr.  Dempster  had  not  set  eyes  on  the  stranger  of 
whom  we  were  in  search. 

"We  may  as  well  return  to  the  house,  Mr.  Hartright,"  said  Misa 
Halcombe ;  **  the  information  we  want  is  evidently  not  to  be  found." 

She  had  bowed  to  Mr.  Dempster,  and  was  about  to  leave  the  schoolroom, 
when  the  forlorn  position  of  Jacob  Postlethwaite,  piteously  sniffing  on  the 
stool  of  penitence,  attracted  her  attrition  as  she  passed  him,  and  made  her 
stop  good-humouredly  to  speak  a  word  to  the  little  prisoner  before  she 
opened  the  door. 

"  You  foolish  boy,"  she  said,  **  why  don't  you  beg  Mr.  Dempster's  pardon, 
and  hold  your  tongue  about  the  ghost  ?" 

"  Eh  I— but  I  saw  t'  ghaist,"  persisted  Jacob  Pofitlethwaite,  with  astare  of 
tenor  and  a  burst  of  tears. 


THE  WOHilf  IK  WHITB.  OS 

* 

"Stuff  and  nonsense !  Yon  saw  nothing  of  the  kind.  Ghost  indeed  f 
What  ghost '' 

^l  heg  your  paidon,  Miss  Haloomhe^"  interposed  the  schoolmaster,  a 
Kttla  uneasily — "  but  I  think  yon  had  better  not  question  the  boy.  The 
obstinate  folly  of  his  story  is  beyond  all  belief ;  and  you  might  lead  him 
into  ignorantly ^" 

"Ignorantly,  what?*  inquired  Miss  Halcombe,  sharply. 

"Ignorantly  shocking  your  feelings/'  said  Mr.  Dempster,  looking  very 
iDuoh  discompoaed. 

**  Upon  my  word,  Mr.  Dempster,  yon  pay  my  feelings  a  great  compli- 
ment in  thinking  them  weak  enough  to  be  shocked  by  such  an  urchin  as 
chat  r'  She  turned  with  an  air  of  satirical  defiance  to  little  Jacob,  and 
b^an  to  question  him  directly.  *'  Come  1"  she  said ;  '*  I  mean  to  know  all 
about  tlus.     You  naughty  boy,  when  did  yon  see  the  ghost  1" 

"  Yester'een,  at  the  gloaming,'*  replied  tfaoob. 

**0h  1  you  saw  it  yesterday  evening,  in  the  twilight?  And  what  was  it 
like?" 

'*  Arl  in  white — as  a  ghaist  should  be,"  answered  the  ghost-seer,  with  a 
confidence  beyond  his  years. 

"  And  where  was  it  ?" 

**  Away  yander,  in  t'  kirkyard — ^where  a  ghaist  ought  to  be." 

**As  a  'ghaist'  should  be— where  a  'ghaist'  ought  to  be — why,  you 
little  fool,  you  talk  as  if  the  manners  and  customs  of  ghosts  had  been 
familiar  to  you  'from  your  in&ncy  1  You  have  got  your  stoiy  at  your 
fingers'  ends,  at  any  rate.  I  suppose  I  shall  hear  next  that  you  can  actually 
tell  me  whose  ghost  it  was  ?" 

**  Eh  I  but  I  just  can,"  replied  Jacob,  nodding  his  head  with  an  air  of 
^oomy  triumph. 

Mr.  Dempster  had  already  tried  several  tunes  to  speak,  while  Miss 
Halcombe  was  examining  his  pupil;  and  he  now  interposed  resolutely 
enough  to  make  himself  heard, 

^  Excuse  me,  Miss  Halcombe,"  he  said,  **  if  I  venture  to  say  that  you  are 
only  encouraging  the  hoy  by  asking  him  these  questions." 

"I  will  merely  ask  one  more,  Mr.  Dempster,  and  then  I  shall  be  quite 
satisfied.  Well,"  she  continued,  turning  to  the  boy,  ''and  whose  ghosi 
was  it  ?" 

"  T'  ghaist  of  Mistress  Fairlie,"  answered  Jacob  in  a  whisper. 

The  effect  which  this  extraordinary  reply  produced  on  Miss  Halcombe, 
fully  justified  the  anxiety  which  the  schoolmaster  had  shown  to  prevent 
ner  from  hearing  it.  Her  face  crimsoned  with  indignation — she  turned 
upon  little  Jacob  with  an  angry  suddenness  which  terrified  him.  into  a 
fresh  burst  of  teaiB— opened  her  lips  to  speak  to  him— -then  contxoll^d  her- 
lelf— and  addressed  the  master  instead  of  the  boy. 


64  THE  WOMAN   IH   WHITE. 

*'  It  is  useless,"  slie  said,  "  to  hold  such  a  child  as  that  responsible  for 
what  he  says.  I  have  little  doubt  that  the  idea  has  been  put  into  his  head 
by  others.  If  there  are  people  in  this  village,  Mr.  Dempster,  who  have 
forgotten  the  respect  and  gratitude  due  from  every  soul  in  it  to  my  mother's 
memory,  I  will  find  them  out;  and,  if  I  have  any  influence  with  Mr. 
Fairlie,  they  shall  suffer  for  it." 

"I  hope — ^indeed,  J  am  sure,  Miss  Haloombe — that  you  are  mistaken," 
said  the  schoolmaster.  '*  The  matter  begins  and  ends  with  the  boy's  own 
perversity  and  foUy.  He  saw,  or  thought  he  saw,  a  woman  in  white, 
yesterday  evening,  as  he  was  passing  the  churchyard  ;  and  the  figure,  real 
or  fancied,  was  standing  by  the  marble  cross,  which  he  and  every  one  else 
in  Limmeiidge  knows  to  be  the  monument  over  Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave. 
These  two  circumstances  are  surely  sufficient  to  have  suggested  to  the  boy 
himself  the  answer  which  has  so  naturally  shocked  you  ?" 

Although  Miss  Halcombe  did  not  seem  to  be  convinced,  she  evidently 
felt  that  the  schoohnaster's  statement  of  the  case  was  too  sensible  to  be 
openly  combated.  She  merely  repHed  by  thanking  him  for  his  attention, 
and  by  promising  to  see  him  again  when  her  doubts  were  satisfied.  This 
said,  she  bowed,  and  led  the  way  out  of  the  schoolroom. 

Throughout  the  whole  of  this  strange  scene,  I  had  stood  apart,  listening 
attentively,  and  drawing  my  own  conclusions.  As  soon  as  we  were  alone 
again.  Miss  Halcombe  asked  me  if  I  had  formed  any  opinion  on  what  I 
had  heard. 

"A  very  strong  opinion,'*  I  answered ;  **  the  boy's  story,  as  I  believe,  has 
a  foundation  in  fact.  I  confess  I  am  anxious  to  see  the  monument  over 
Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave,  and  to  examine  the  ground  about  it." 

**  You  shall  see  the  grave." 

bhe  paused  after  making  that  reply,  and  reflected  a  little  as  we  walked 
on.  "  What  has  happened  in  the  schoolroom,"  she  resumed,  <^  has  so  com- 
pletely distracted  my  attention  from  the  subject  of  the  letter,  that  I  feel  a 
little  bewildered  when  I  try  to  return  to  it.  Must  we  give  up  all  idea  of 
making  any  further  inquiries,  and  wait  to  place  the  thing  in  Mr.  Gihnore's 
hands,  to-morrow  ?" 

"  By  no  means.  Miss  Halcombe.  What  has  happened  in  the  school- 
room encourages  me  to  persevere  in  the  investigation." 

"  Why  does  it  encourage  you  ?" 

"  Because  it  strengthens  a  suspicion  I  felt,  when  you  gave  me  the  letter 
to  read." 

''  I  suppose  you  had  your  reasons,  Mr.  Hartright,  for  concealing  that 
suspicion  from  me  till  this  moment?" 

"  I  was  afraid  to  encourage  it  in  myself.  I  thought  it  was  utterly  pre- 
posterous— I  distrusted  it  as  the  result  of  some  perversity  in  my  own 
imagination.    But  I  can  do  so  no  longer.    Not  qdIj  the  boy's  own  answers 


TOE  womah  is  WIUTB.  06 

to  yoar  questions,  bat  even  a  chaaoe  expression  that  dxx>pped  from  the 
achoolmatiter*s  lips  in  explaining  his  story,  have  forced  the  idea  back  into 
my  mind.  Events  may  yet  prove  that  idea  to  be  a  delusion.  Miss  Haloombe ; 
but  the  belief  is  strong  in  me,  at  this  moment,  that  the  fancied  ghost  in 
the  churchyard,  and  the  writer  of  the  anonymous  letter,  are  one  and  the 
same  person." 

Bhe  stopped,  tamed  pale,  and  looked  me  eagerly  in  the  face. 

"  What  person  ?" 

*'  The  schoolmaster  unconsciously  told  you.  When  he  spoke  of  the 
figure  that  the  boy  saw  in  the  churchyaid,  be  called  it  *a  woaum  in 
white.'  '* 

"Not  Anne  Catherick !" 

"Yes,  Anne  Catherick." 

She  put  her  hand  through  my  arm,  and  leaned  on  it  heavily. 

*'I  don't  know  why,"  she  said,  in  low  tones,  *^  but  there  is  something  iu 

this  suspicion  of  yours  that  seems  to  startle  and  unnerve  me.    I  feel ^ 

She  stopped,  and  tried  to  laugh  it  off.  '*  Mr.  Hartright,"  she  went  on,  "  I 
will  show  yoa  the  grave,  and  then  go  back  at  once  to  the  house.  I  had 
better  not  leave  Laura  too  long  alone.  I  had  better  go  back,  and  sit  with 
her." 

We  were  close  to  the  churchyard  when  she  spoke.  The  church,  a  dreary 
building  of  gray  stone,  was  situated  in  a  little  valley,  so  as  to  be  sheltered 
from  the  bleak  winds  blowing  over  the  moorland  all  round  it.  The  burial- 
ground  advanced,  from  the  side  of  the  church,  a  little  way  up  the  slope;  of 
the  hill.  It  was  surrounded  by  a  rough,  low  stone  wall,  and  was  liaie 
and  open  to  the  sky,  except  at  one  extremity,  where  a  brook  trickled  down 
the  stony  hill  side,  and  a  clump  of  dwarf  trees  threw  their  narrow  shadows 
over  the  short,  meagre  grass.  Just  beyond  the  brook  and  the  trees,  and 
not  far  from  one  of  the  three  stone  stiles  which  afforded  entrance,  at 
various  points,  to  the  churchyard,  rose  the  white  marble  cross  that  dis- 
tinguished Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave  from  the  humbler  monuments  scattered 
about  it. 

'*  I  need  go  no  farther  with  you,"  said  Miss  Halcombe,  pointing  to  the 
grave.  '<  You  will  let  me  know  if  you  find  anything  to  confirm  the  idea 
you  have  just  mentioned  to  me.    Let  us  meet  again  at  the  house.*' 

She  left  me.  I  descended  at  once  to  the  churchyard,  and  crossed  the 
stile  which  led  directly  to  Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave. 

The  grass  about  it  was  too  short,  and  the  ground  too  hard,  to  show  any 
marks  of  footsteps.  Disappointed  thus  far,  I  next  looked  attentively  at  the 
cross,  and  at  the  square  block  of  marble  below  it,  on  which  the  inscription 
was  cut. 

The  natural  whiteness  of  the  cross  was  a  little  clouded,  here  and  there, 
b]r  weather-stains ;  and  rather  more  than  one  half  of  the  square  blo<^^ 


06  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

beneath  it,  on  the  side  which  bore  the  inscription,  was  in  the  same  oondi- 
tion.  The  other  half,  however,  attracted  my  attention  at  once  by  its 
singular  freedom  from  stain  or  impurity  of  any  kind.  I  looked  closer,  and 
saw  that  it  had  been  cleaned — recently  cleaned,  in  a  downward  direction 
from  top  to  bottom.  The  boundary  line  between  the  part  that  had  been 
cleaned  and  the  part  that  had  not,  was  traceable  wherever  the  inscription 
left  a  blank  space  of  marble — ^sharply  traceable  as  a  line  that  had  been  pro- 
duced by  artificial  means.  Who  had  begun  the  cleansing  of  the  marble, 
and  who  had  left  it  unfinished? 

I  looked  about  me,  wondering  how  the  question  was  to  be  solved.  No 
sign  of  a  habitation  could  be  discerned  from  the  point  at  which  I  was 
standing :  the  burial-ground  was  left  in  the  lonely  possession  of  the  dead. 
I  returned  to  the  church,  and  walked  round  it  till  I  came  to  the  back  of 
the  building ;  then  crossed  the  boundary  wall  beyond,  by  another  of  the 
stone  stiles ;  and  found  myself  at  the  head  of  a  path  leading  down  into  a 
deserted  stone  quarry.  Against  one  rade  of  the  quarry  a  little  two  room 
cottage  was  built ;  and  just  outside  the  door  an  old  woman  was  engaged  in 
washing. 

I  walked  up  to  her,  and  entered  into  conversation  about  the  church  and 
burial-ground.  She  was  ready  enough  to  talk ;  and  almost  the  first  words 
she  said  informed  me  that  her  husband  filled  the  two  offices  of  clerk  and 
sexton.  I  said  a  few  words  next  in  praise  of  Mrs.  Fairlie*s  monument. 
The  old  woman  shook  her  head,  and  told  me  I  had  not  seen  it  at  its  best. 
It  was  her  husband's  business  to  look  after  it ;  but  he  had  been  so  ailing 
and  weak,  for  months  and  months  past,  that  he  had  hardly  been  able  to 
crawl  into  church  on  Sundays  to  do  his  duty ;  and  the  monument  had 
been  neglected  in  consequence.  He  was  getting  a  little  better  now ;  and, 
in  a  week  or  ten  days'  time,  he  hoped  to  be  strong  enough  to  set  to  work 
and  clean  it. 

This  information — extracted  from  a  long  rambling  answer,  in  the 
broadest  Cumberland  dialect — ^told  me  all  that  I  most  wanted  to  know.  I 
gave  the  poor  woman  a  trifle,  and  returned  at  once  to  Limmeridge  House. 

The  partial  cleansing  of  the  monument  had  evidently  been  accomplished 
by  a  strange  hand.  Connecting  what  I  had  discovered,  thus  far,  with  what 
I  had  suspected  after  hearing  the  story  of  the  ghost  seen  at  twilight,  I 
wanted  nothing  more  to  confirm  my  resolution  to  watch  Mrs.  Fairlie's 
grave,  in  secret,  that  evening ;  returning  to  it  at  sunset,  and  waiting  within 
sight  of  it  till  the  fnight  fell.  The  work  of  cleansing  the  monument  had 
been  left  unfinished ;  and  the  person  by  whom  it  had  been  began  might 
return  to  complete  it. 

On  getting  back  to  the  house,  I  informed  Miss  Halcombe  of  what  I 
intended  to  do.  She  looked  surprised  and  uneasy,  while  I  was  explaining 
my  purpose ;  but  she  made  no  positive  objection  to  the  execution  of  it. 


THK  WOMA.N    IN   WHITE.  67 

She  only  said,  "  I  hojte  it  may  end  well."  Just  as  she  was  leaving  n^e 
again,  I  stopped  her  to  inquire,  as  calmly  as  I  could,  after  Miss  Fairlie's 
health.  She  was  in  better  spirits ;  and  Miss  Halcombe  hoped  she  mighf 
be  induced  to  take  a  little  walking  exercise  while  the  afternoon  sun  lasted. 

I  retmned  to  my  own  room,  to  resume  setting  the  drawings  in  order.  It 
was  necessary  to  do  this,  and  doubly  necessary  to  keep  my  mind  employed 
on  anything  that  would  help  to  distract  my  attention  from  myself,  and 
from  the  hopeless  future  that  lay  before  me.  From  time  to  time,  I  paused 
in  my  work  to  look  out  of  window  and  watch  the  sky  as  the  sun  sank 
nearer  and  nearer  to  the  horizon.  On  one  of  those  occasions  I  saw  a  figure 
on  the  broad  gravel  walk  under  my  window.    It  was  Miss  Fairlie. 

I  had  not  seen  her  since  the  morning ;  and  I  had  hardly  spoken  to  her 
then.  Another  day  at  Limmeridge  was  all  that  remained  to  me ;  and 
after  that  day  my  eyes  might  never  look  on  her  again.  This  thought  was 
enough  to  hold  me  at  the  window.  I  had  sufficient  consideration  for  her, 
to  arrange  the  blind  so  that  she  might  not  see  me  if  she  looked  up ;  but  I 
had  no  strength  to  resist  the  temptation  of  letting  my  eyes,  at  least,  follow 
her  as  fiEir  as  they  could  on  her  walk. 

She  was  dressed  in  a  brown  cloak,  with  a  plain  black  silk  gown  under  it* 
On  her  head  was  the  same  simple  straw  hat  which  she  had  worn  on  the 
morning  when  we  first  met.  A  veil  was  attached  to  it  now,  which  hid  her 
face  from  me.  By  her  side,  trotted  a  little  Italian  greyhound,  the  pet 
companion  of  all  her  walks,  smartly  dressed  in  a  scarlet  cloth  vn^ipper,  to 
keep  the  sharp  air  from  his  delicate  skin.  She  did  not  seem  to  notice  the 
dog.  She  walked  straight  forward,  with  her  head  drooping  a  little,  and 
her  arms  folded  in  her  doak.  The  dead  leaves  which  had  whirled  in  the 
wind  before  me,  when  I  had  heard  of  her  marriage  engagement  in  the 
rooming,  whirled  in  the  wind  before  her,  and  rose  and  fell  and  scattered 
themselves  at  her  feet,  as  she  walked  on  in  the  pale  waning  sunlight.  The 
dog  shivered  and  trembled,  and  pressed  against  her  dress  impatiently  for 
3iotice  and  encouragement.  But  she  never  heeded  him.  She  walked  on, 
farther  and  farther  away  from  me,  with  the  dead  leaves  whirling  about  her 
on  the  path — ^walked  on,  till  my  aching  eyes  could  see  her  no  more,  and  I 
was  left  alone  again  with  my  own  heavy  heart. 

In  another  hour's  time,  I  had  done  my  work,  and  the  sunset  was  at  hand, 
I  got  my  hat  and  coat  in  the  hall,  and  ^slipped  out  of  the  house  without 
meeting  any  one. 

The  clouds  were  wild  in  the  western  heaven,  and  the  wind  blew  chill 
from  the  sea.  Far  as  the  shore  was,  the  sound  of  the  surf  swept  over  the 
intervening  moorland,  and  beat  drearily  in  my  ears,  when  I  entered  the 
churchyard.  '  Not  a  living  creature  was  in  sight.  The  place  looked 
lonelier  than  ever,  as  I  chose  my  position,  and  waited  and  watched,  witb 
my  eyea  on  the  white  cross  that  rose  over  Mrs.  Fairlie*s  grave. 


68  THE^  WOif.UI  m  WfilTK. 

XIIT. 
The  exposed  sitoatioa  of  the  churchyard  had  obliged  me  to  be  OMitionj  in 

choosing  the  position  that  I  was  to  occupy. 

The  main  entrance  to  the  church  was  on  the  side  next  to  the  burial- 
ground  ;  and  the  door  was  screened  by  a  porch  walled  in  on  either  side. 
After  some  little  hesitation,  caused  by  natural  reluctance  to  conceal  myself 
indispensable  as  that  concealment  was  to  the  object  in  view,  I  had  resolved 
on  entering  the  porch.  A  loophole  window  was  pierced  in  each  of  its  side 
walls.  Through  one  of  these  windows  I  could  see  Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave. 
The  other  looked  towards  the  stone  quarry  in  which  the  sexton's  cottage 
was  built.  Before  me,  fronting  the  porch  entrance,  was  a  patch  of  bare 
burial-ground,  a  line  of  low  stone  wall,  and  a  strip  of  lonely  brown  hilly 
with  the  sunset  clouds  sailing  heavily  over  it  before  the  strong,  steady 
wind.  No  living  creature  was  visible  or  audible — ^no  bird  flew  by  me ;  no 
dog  barked  from  the  sexton's  cottage.  The  pauses  in  the  dull  beating  of 
the  surf  were  filled  up  by  the  dreary  rustling  of  the  dwarf  trees  near  the 
grave,  and  the  cold  faint  bubble  of  the  brook  over  its  stony  bed.  A  dreary 
scene  and  a  dreary  hour.  My  spirits  sank  fast  as  I  counted  out  the 
minutes  of  the  evening  in  my  hiding-place  tmder  the  church  porch. 

It  was  not  twilight  yet — the  light  of  the  setting  sun  still  lingered  in  the 
heavens,  and  little  more  than  the  first  half-hour  of  my  solitary  watch  had 
elapsed — when  I  heard  footsteps,  and  a  voice.  The  footsteps  were  approach- 
ing from  the  other  side  of  the  church  ;  and  the  voice  was  a  woman's. 

"  Don't  you  fret,  my  dear,  about  the  letter,"  said  the  voice.  "  I  gave  it 
to  the  lad  quite  safe,  and  the  lad  he  took  it  from  me  without  a  word.  He 
went  his  way  and  I  went  mine ;  and  not  a  living  soul  followed  me,  after- 
wards — that  FU  warrant." 

These  words  strung  up  my  attention  to  a  pitch  of  expectation  that  was 
almost  painful.  There  was  a  pause  of  silence,  but  the  footsteps  still 
advanced.  In  another  moment,  two  persons,  both  women,  passed  within 
my  range  of  view  from  the  porch  window.  They  were  walking  straight 
towards  the  grave ;  and  therefore  they  had  their  backs  turned  towards  me. 

One  of  the  women  was  dressed  in  a  bonnet  and  shawl.  The  other  wore 
a  long  travelling-cloak  of  a  dark-blue  colour,  vnth  the  hood  drawn  over  her 
head.  A  few  inches  of  her  gown  were  visible  below  the  cloak.  My  heart 
beat  fast  as  I  noted  the  colour — it  was  white. 

After  advancing  about  half-way  between  the  church  and  the  grave,  they 
stopped ;  and  the  woman  in  the  cloak  turned  her  head  towards  her  com- 
panion. But  her  side  &ce,  which  a  bonnet  might  now  have  allowed  me  to 
see,  was  hidden  by  the  heavy,  projecting  edge  of  the  hood 

**  Mind  you  keep  that  comfortable  warm  cloak  on,"  said  the  same  voice 
which  I  had  already  heard — ^the  voice  of  the  woman  in  the  shawl.  "  Mrs. 
Todd  is  right  about  your  looking  too  particular,  yesterday,  all  in  white. 


THB  WOMAN  IN  WHITK.  09 

m  walk  about  a  little,  wliile  you're  here ;  chuTchyards  being  not  at  all  in 
my  way,  whatever  they  may  be  in  yours.  Finish  what  you  want  to  do^ 
before  I  come  back ;  and  let  us  be  sure  and  get  home  again  before  night.** 

With  those  words,  she  turned  about,  and  retracing  her  steps,  advanced 
with  her  face  towards  me.  It  was  the  face  of  an  elderly  woman,  brown, 
ragged,  and  healthy,  with  nothing  dishonest  or  suspicious  in  the  look  of  it. 
Close  to  the  church,  she  stopped  to  pull  her  shawl  closer  round  her. 

**  Queer,"  she  said  to  herself,  "  always  queer,  with  her  whims  and  her 
ways,  ever  since  I  can  remember  her.  Harmless,  though — as  harmless, 
poor  soul,  as  a  little  child." 

She  sighed ;  looked  about  the  burial-ground  nervously ;  shook  her  head 
as  if  the  dreary  prospect  by  no  means  pleased  her ;  and  disappeared  round 
the  comer  of  liie  church. 

I  doubted  for  a  moment  whether  I  ought  to  follow  and  speak  to  her,  or 
not  My  intense  anxiety  to  find  myself  fiace  to  face  with  her  companion 
helped  me  to  decide  in  the  negative.  I  could  ensure  seeing  the  woman  in 
the  shawl  by  waiting  near  the  churchyard  imtil  she  came  back — although 
it  seemed  more  than  doubtful  whether  she  could  ^ve  me  the  information 
of  which  I  was  in  search.  The  person  who  had  delivered  the  letter  was  of 
httle  consequence.  The  person  who  had  written  it  was  the  one  centre  of 
interest,  and  the  one  source  of  information ;  and  that  person  I  now  felt 
convinced  was  before  me  in  the  churchyard. 

While  these  ideas  were  passing  through  my  mind,  I  saw  the  woman  in 
the  cloak  approach  close  to  the  grave,  and  stand  looking  at  it  for  a  little 
while.  She  then  glanced  all  round  her,  and,  taking  a  white  linen  cloth  or 
handkerchief  from  under  her  cloak,  turned  aside  towards  the  brook.  The 
httle  stream  ran  into  the  churchyard  under  a  tiny  archway  in  the  bottom 
of  the  wall,  and  ran  out  again,  after  a  winding  course  of  a  few  dozen  yards, 
under  a  similar  opening.  She  dipped  the  cloth  in  the  water,  and  returned 
to  the  grave.  I  saw  her  kiss  the  white  cross ;  then  kneel  down  before  the 
inscription,  and  apply  her  wet  doth  to  the  cleansing  of  it. 

After  considering  how  I  could  show  myself  with  the  least  possible  chance 
of  frightenii^  her,  I  resolved  to  cross  the  wall  before  me,  to  skirt  round  it 
outside,  and  to  enter  the  churchyard  again  by  the  stile  near  the  grave,  in 
order  that  she  might  see  me  as  I  approached.  She  was  so  absorbed  over 
her  employment  tibat  she  did  not  hear  me  coming  until  I  had  stepped  over 
the  stile.  Then,  she  looked  up,  started  to  her  feet  with  a  &int  cry,  and 
stood  facing  me  in  speechless  and  motionless  terror. 

**  Don't  be  frightened,"  I  said.    "  Surely,  you  remember  me  ?" 

I  stopped  while  I  spoke— then  advanced  a  few  steps  gently — ^then  stopped 
again — and  so  approached  by  little  and  little,  till  I  was  close  to  her.  If 
there  had  been  any  doubt  still  left  in  my  mind,  it  must  have  been  now  set 
at  rest    There,  speaking  affrightedly  for  itself— there  was  the  same  &op 


JQ  IHK  WOMAN   IN   WHITE. 

oonfronting  me  over  Mrs.  Fairlie's  grave,  which  had  first  looked  into  mine 
on  the  high-road  by  night. 

"  You  remember  me  ?"  I  said.  "  We  met  very  late,  and  I  helped  you  tc 
find  the  way  to  London.    Surely  you  have  not  forgotten  that  T* 

Her  features  relaxed,  and  she  drew  a  heavy  breath  of  relief.  I  saw  the 
new  life  of  recognition  stirring  slowly  under  the  deathUke  stillness  which 
fear  had  set  on  her  face. 

**  Don't  attempt  to  speak  to  me,  just  yet,"  I  went  on.  **  Take  time  to 
recover  yourself— -take  time  to  feel  quite  certain  that  I  am  a  friend.** 

"  You  are  very  kind  to  me,"  she  murmured.  "  As  kind  now,  as  you 
were  then.** 

She  stopped,  and  I  kept  silence  on  my  side.  I  was  not  granting  time  for 
composure  to  her  only,  I  was  gaining  time  also  for  myself.  Under  the  wan 
wild  evening  li^t,  timt  woman  and  I  were  met  tc^ther  again ;  a  grave 
between  us,  the  dead  about  us,  the  lonesome  hills  closing  us  round  on  every 
side.  The  time,  the  place,  the  circumstances  under  which  we  now  stood 
face  to  face  in  the  evening  stillness  of  that  dreary  valley ;  the  life-long 
interests  which  might  hang  suspended  on  the  next  dmnce  words  that  passed 
between  us ;  the  sense  that,  for  aught  I  knew  to  the  contrary,  the  whole 
future  of  Laura  FairUe's  life  might  be  determined,  for  good  or  for  evil,  by 
my  winning  or ,  losing  the  confidence  of  the  forlorn  creature  who  stood 
trembling  by  her  mother's  grave— all  threatened  to  shake  the  steadiness 
aad  the  self-control  on  which  every  inch  of  the  progress  I  might  yet  make 
now  depended.  I  tried  hard,  as  I  felt  this,  to  possess  myself  of  all  my 
resources ;  I  did  my  utmost  to  torn  the  few  moments  for  reflection  to  the 
best  account. 

"  Are  you  calmer,  now  ?**  I  said,  as  soon  as  I  thought  it  time  to  speak 
again.  '*Gan  you  talk  to  me,  without  feeling  frightened,  and  without 
forgetting  that  I  am  a  friend  ?" 

<'  How  did  you  come  here  ?**  she  asked,  without  noticing  what  I  had  just 
said  to  her. 

"  Don't  you  remember  my  telling  you,  when  we  last  met^  that  I  was 
going  to  Cumberland  ?  I  have  been  in  Cumberland  ever  since ;  I  have 
been  staying  all  the  time  at  Limmeridge  House." 

**  At  Limmeridge  House  I"  Her  pale  face  brightened  as  she  repeated  the 
words ;  her  wandering  eyes  fixed  on  me  with  a  sudden  interest.  **  Ah, 
how  happy  you  must  have  beenl**  she  sud,  looking  at  me  eagerly, 
without  a  shadow  of  its  former  distrust  left  in  her  expression. 

I  took  advantage  of  her  newly-aroused  confidence  in  me,  to  observe  her 
face,  with  an  attention  and  a  curiosity  which  I  had  hitherto  restrained 
myself  from  showing,  for  caution's  sake.  I  looked  at  her,  with  my  mind 
full  of  that  other  lovelv  face  which  had  so  ominously  recalled  her  to 
my  memory  on  the  terrace  by  moonlight,    I  had  seen  Anne  Catherick*8 


rail   wo  VAN  IH   WHITE.  71 

likfiueGB  in  Mm  Fairlie.    I  now  saw  Miss  Fairlie's  likeness  in  Anno  Cathe- 

rick— flaw  it  all  the  more  clearly  because  the  points  of  dissimilarity  between 

the  two  were  presented  to  me  as  well  as  the  points  of  resemblance.    In  the 

general  outline  of  the  countenance  and  general  proportion  of  the  features ; 

in  the  colour  of  the  hair  and  in  the  little  nervous  uncertainty  about  ihe 

lips ;  in  the  height  and  size  of  the  figure,  and  the  carriage  of  the  head  and 

body,  the  likeness  appeared  even  more  startling  than  I  had  ever  felt  it  to 

be  yet.    But  there  the  resemblance  ended,  and  the  dissimilarity,  in  details, 

began.    The  delicato  beauty  of  Miss  Fairlie's  complexion,  the  transparent 

clearness  of  her  eyes,  the  smooth  purity  of  her  skin,  the  tender  bloom  of 

colour  on  her  lips,  were  all  missing  from  the  worn,  weary  &ce  that  wa« 

now  turned  towards  mine.    Although  I  hated  myself  even  for  thinking 

Buch  a  thing,  still,  while  I  looked  at  the  woman  before  me,  the  idea  would 

force  itself  into  my  mind  that  one  sad  change,  in  the  future,  was  all  that 

was  wanting  to  make  the  likeness  complete,  which  I  now  saw  to  be  so 

imperfect  in  detail.    If  ever  sorrow  and  suffering  set  their  profaning  marks 

on  the  youth  and  beauty  of  Miss  Fairlie's  face,  then,  and  then  only,  Anne 

Catherick  and  she  would  be  the  twin-sisters  of  chance  resembhmce,  the 

living  reflexions  of  one  another. 

I  shuddered  at  the  thought.  There  was  something  horrible  in  the  blind 
unreasoning  distrust  of  the  future  which  the  mere  passage  of  it  through  my 
niind  seemed  to  imply.  It  was  a  welcome  interruption  to  be  roused  by 
feeling  Anne  Gatherick*8  hand  laid  on  my  shoulder.  The  touch  was  as 
stealthy  and  as  sudden  as  that  other  touch,  which  had  petrified  me  firom 
bead  to  foot  on  the  night  when  we  first  met. 

"  Ton  are  looking  at  me ;  and  you  are  thinking  of  something,"  she  said 
with  her  strange,  breathless  rapidity  of  utterance.     **  What  is  it  ?" 

**  Nothing  extraordinary,"  I  answered,  "  I  was  only  wondering  how  you 
came  here." 

''  I  came  with  a  friend  who  is  very  good  to  me.  I  have  only  been  here 
two  days." 

"  And  you  found  your  way  to  this  place  yesterday  ?" 

"  How  do  you  know  that  ?" 

"I  only  guessed  it.'* 

She  turned  fh>m  me,  and  knelt  down  before  the  inscription  once  more. 

**  Where  should  I  go,  if  not  here  ?"  she  said.  "  The  friend  who  was 
better  than  a  mother  to  me,  is  the  only  friend  I  have  to  visit  at  Lim- 
meridge.  Oh,  it  makes  my  heart  ache  to  see  a  stain  on  her  tomb !  V. 
ought  to  be  kept  white  as  snow,  for  her  sake.  I  was  tempted  to  begin 
cleaning  it  yesterday ;  and  I  can't  help  coming  back  to  go  on  with  it  to-day 
Is  there  anything  wrong  in  that?  I  hope  not.  Surely  nothing  canbf 
wroag  that  I  do  for  Mrs.  Fairlie's  sake?" 

The  old  grateful  sense  of  her  benefactress's  kindness  was  evidently  tb 


72  THE  WOMAN  19  WHITE* 

roliog  idea  still  in  the  poor  creatnie's  mind — the  narrow  mind  which  had 
but  too  plainly  opened  to  no  other  lasting  impression  since  that  first 
impression  of  her  younger  and  happier  days.  I  saw  that  my  best  chance 
of  winning  her  confidence  lay  in  encouraging  her  to  proceed  with  the  art- 
less employment  which  she  had  come  into  the  burial-ground  to  pursue. 
She  resumed  it  at  once,  on  my  telling  her  she  might  do  so ;  touching  the 
hard  marble  as  tenderly  as  if  it  had  been  a  sentient  thing,  and  whispering 
the  words  of  the  mscription  to  herself,  over  and  over  again,  as  if  the  lost 
days  of  her  girlhood  had  returned  and  she  was  patiently  learning  her  lesson 
once  more  at  Mrs.  Fairlie's  knees. 

*'  Should  you  wonder  very  much,"  I  said,  preparing  the  way  as  cautiously 
as  I  could  for  the  questions  that  were  to  come,  *'  if  I  owned  that  it  is  a 
satisfaction  to  me,  as  well  as  a  surprise,  to  see  you  here  ?  I  felt  very 
uneasy  about  you  after  you  left  me  in  tlie  cab." 

She  looked  up  quickly  and  suspiciously. 

"  Uneasy,"  she  repeated.    **  Why  ?" 

<'A  strange  thing  happened,  after  we  parted,' that  night.  Two  men 
overtook  me  in  a  chaise.  They  did  not  see  where  I  was  standing ;  but 
they  stopped  near  me,  and  spoke  to  a  policeman,  on  the  other  side  of  the 
way." 

She  instantly  suspended  her  employment.  The  hand  holding  the  damp 
cloth  with  which  she  had  been  cleaning  the  inscription,  dropped  to  her 
side.  The  other  hand  grasped  the  marble  cross  at  the  head  of  the  grave. 
Her  face  turned  towards  me  slowly,  with  the  blank  look  of  terror  set  rigidly 
on  it  once  more.  I  went  on  at  all  hazards ;  it  was  too  late  now  to  draw 
back. 

^  The  two  men  spoke  to  the  policeman,"  I  said, ''  and  asked  him  if  he  had 
seen  you.  He  had  not  seen  you ;  and  then  one  of  the  men  spoke  again,  and 
said  you  had  escaped  from  his  Asylum.** 

She  sprang  to  her  feet,  as  if  my  last  words  had  set  the  pursuers  on  her 
track. 

"  Stop  I  and  hear  the  end,"  I  cried.  "  Stop !  and  you  shall  know  how  1 
befriended  you.  A  word  from  me  would  have  told  the  men  which  way 
you  had  gone — and  I  never  spoke  that  word.  I  helped  your  escape — ^I 
made  it  safe  and  certain.  Think,  try  to  think.  Try  to  understand  what  I 
tell  you." 

My  manner  seemed  to  influence  her  more  than  my  words.  She  made 
an  effort  to  grasp  the  new  idea.  Her  hands  shifted  the  damp  cloth  hesi* 
tatingly  from  one  to  the  other,  exactly  as  they  had  shifted  the  little 
travelling-bag  on  the  night  when  I  first  saw  her.  Slowly  the  purpose  of 
my  words  seemed  to  force  its  way  through  the  confusion  and  agitation  of 
her  mind.  Slowly,  ner  features  relaxed,  and  her  eyes  looked  at  ms 
with  their  expression  gaining  in  ouriosity  what  it  was  fast  losing  in  fear. 


THK  WOMAN  IH   WHIl  K.  78 

**  You  don't  think  I  ought  to  be  back  in  the  Asylom,  do  yoaf  8h4» 

said. 

"Certainly  not.  I  am  glad  yon  escaped  from  it ;  I  am  glad  I  helped 
you.* 

"  Yes,  yes ;  you  did  help  me  indeed ;  you  helped  me  at  the  hard  part,* 
she  went  on,  a  little  vacantly.  "  It  was  easy  to  escape,  or  I  should  not 
lutve  got  away.  They  never  suspected  me  as  they  suspected  the  others. 
I  was  so  quiet,  and  so  obedient^  and  so  easily  frightened.  The  finding; 
London  was  the  hard  part ;  and  there  you  helped  me.  Did  I  thank  you  at 
the  time?    I  thank  you  now,  very  kindly." 

"Was  the  Asylum  far  from  where  you  met  me?  Come!  show  that 
you  believe  me  to  "be  your  friend,  and  tell  me  where  it  was* 

She  mentioned  the  place^a  private  Asylum,  as  its  situation  informed 
me  ;.a  private  Asylum  not  very  far  from  the  spot  where  I  had  seen  her — 
and  then,  with  evident  suspicion  of  the  use  to  which  I  might  put  her 
answer,  anxiously  repeated  her  former  inquiry :  "  Tou  don't  think  I  onght 
to  be  taken  back,  do  you  ?'* 

"  Once  again,  I  am  glad  you  escaped ;  I  am  glad  you  prospered  well, 
after  you  left  me,"  I  answered.  *^  Ton  said  you  had  a  friend  in  London  to 
goto.    Did  you  find  the  friend  ?" 

''Yes.  It  was  very  late;  but  there  was  a  girl  up  at  needlework  in  the 
house,  and  she  helped  me  to  rouse  Mrs.  Clements.  Mrs.  Clements  is  my 
fiiend.  A  good,  kind  woman,  but  not  like  Mrs.  Fairlie.  Ah,  no,  nobody 
is  Hke  Mrs.  FairUe !" 

'*  Is  Mrs.  Clements  an  old  fidend  of  yours  ?  Have  you  known  her  a 
longtime?" 

*'  Yes  ;  she  was  a  neighbour  of  ours  once,  at  home,  in  Hampshire ;  and 
liked  me,  and  took  care  of  me  when  I  was  a  little  girl.  Years  ago,  when 
she  went  away  from  us,  she  wrote  down  in  my  prayer-book  for  me,  where 
she  was  going  to  live  in  London,  and  she  said,  '  If  you  are  ever  in  trouble, 
Anne,  come  to  me.  I  have  no  husband  alive  to  say  me  nay,  and  no 
children  to  look  after ;  and  I  will  take  care  of  you.'  Kind  words,  were 
they  not?  I  suppose  I  remember  them  because  they  were  kind.  It's 
little  enough  I  remember  besides — ^little  enough,  little  enough  I" 

"  Had  you  no  father  or  mother  to  take  care  of  you  ?" 

"Father?  I  never  saw  him;  I  never  heard  mother  speak  of  him. 
Father  ?    Ah,  dear  I  he  is  dead  I  suppose." 

"And  your  mother?" 

"  I  don't  get  on  well  with  her.  We  are  a  trouble  and  a  fear  to  each 
other." 

A  trouble  and  a  fear  to  each  other !  At  those  words,  the  suspicion 
crossed  my  mind,  for  the  first  time,  that  her  mother  might  be  the  person 
who  had  placed  her  under  restraint. 


74  thj::  woman  in  wuxte. 

"  Don't  ask  me  about  mother,"  die  went  on.  "  I'd  rather  talk  of  Mrs. 
Clements.  Mrs.  Clements  is  like  you,  she  doesn't  think  that  I  ought  to  be 
back  in  the  Asylum ;  and  she  is  as  glad  as  you  are  that  I  escaped  from 
it.  She  cried  over  my  misfortune,  and  said  it  must  be  kept  secret  from 
everybody." 

Her  '< misfortune."  In  what  sense  was  she  using  that  word?  In  a 
sense  which  might  explain  her  motive  in  wilting  the  anonymous  letter  ? 
In  a  sense  which  might  show  it  to  be  the  too  common  and  too  customary 
motive  that  has  led  many  a  woman  to  interpose  anonymous  hindrances  to 
the  marriage  of  the  man  who  has  ruined  her  ?  I  resolved  to  attempt  tlie 
clearing  up  of  this  doubt,  before  more  words  passed  between  us  on  either 
side. 

"  What  misfortune  ?"  I  asked. 

•*The  misfortune  of  my  being  shut  up,"  she  answered,  with  every 
appearance  of  feeling  surprised  at  my  question.  '*  What  other  misfortune 
could  there  be  ?" 

I  determined  to  persist,  as  delicately  and  forbearingly  as  possible.  It 
was  of  very  great  importance  that  I  should  be  absolutely  sure  of  every  step 
in  the  investigation  which  I  now  gained  in  advance. 

*' There  is  another  misfortune,"  I  said,  "to  which  a  woman  may  be 
liable,  and  by  which  she  may  suffer  life-long  sorrow  and  shame." 

**  What  is  it?"  she  asked,  eagerly. 

"  The  misfortune  of  believing  too  innocently  in  her  own  virtue,  and  in 
the  faith  and  honour  of  the  man  she  loves,"  I  answered. 

She  looked  up  at  me,  with  the  artless  bewilderment  of  a  child.  -  Not  the 
slightest  confusion  or  change  of  colour ;  not  the  faintest  trace  of  any  secret 
consciousness  of  shame  struggling  to  the  surface,  appeared  in  her  face — 
that  fiace  which  betrayed  every  other  emotion  with  such  transparent  clear- 
ness. No  words  that  ever  were  spoken  could  have  assured  me,  as  her  look 
and  manner  now  assured  me,  that  the  motive  which  I  had  assigned  for  her 
writing  the  letter  and  sending  it  to  Miss  Fairlie  was  plainly  and  distinctly 
the  wrong  one.  That  doubt,  at  any  rate,  was  now  set  at  rest ;  but  the 
very  removal  of  it  opened  a  new  prospect  of  uncertainty.  The  letter,  as  I 
knew  from  positive  testimony,  pointed  at  Sir  Percival  Glyde,  though  it  did 
not  name  him.  She  must  have  had  some  strong  motive,  originating  in 
some  deep  sense  of  injury,  for  secretly  denouncing  him  to  Miss  Fairlie,  in 
such  terms  as  she  had  employed — and  that  motive  was  unquestionably  not 
to  be  traced  to  the  loss  of  her  Innocence  and  her  character.  Whatever 
wrong  he  might  have  inflicted  on  her  was  not  of  that  nature.  Of  what 
nature  could  it  be  ? 

''I don't  understand  you,"  she  said,  after  evidently  trying  hard,  and 
trying  in  vain  to  discover  the  meaning  of  the  words  I  had  last  said  to  her. 

**  Never  mind,"  I  answered.    "  Let  us  go  on  with  what  we  were  talking 


THE  ViOUAn   IM   ^VHIT£.  75 

about.  Tell  me  Low  long  you  stayed  with  Mrs.  GlemeDts  in  London,  and 
bow  you  came  here." 

"How  long  ?*'  she  repeated.  "  I  stayed  with  Mrs.  Clements  till  we  both 
came  to  this  place,  two  days  ago." 

**  You  are  living  in  the  village,  then  ?**  I  said.  **  It  is  strange  I  should 
not  have  heard  of  you,  though  you  have  only  been  here  two  days." 

''  No,  no ;  not  in  the  village.  Three  miles  away  at  a  farm.  Do  you 
know  the  farm  ?     They  call  it  Todd's  Comer." 

I  remembered  the  place  perfectly ;  we  had  often  passed  by  it  in  our  drives. 
It  was  one  of  the  oldest  farms  in  the  neighbourhood,  situated  in  a  solitary* 
sheltered  spot,  inland  at  the  junction  of  two  hills. 

"  They  are  relations  of  Mrs.  Clements  at  Todd's  Comer,"  she  went  on, 
"  and  they  had  often  asked  her  to  go  and  see  them.  She  said  she  would 
go,  and  take  me  with  her,  for  the  quiet  and  the  fresh  air.  It  was  very 
kind,  was  it  not  ?  I  would  have  gone  anywhere  to  be  quiet,  and  safe,  and 
out  of  the  way.  But  when  I  heard  that  Todd's  Comer  was  near  Limme- 
ridge— oh  I  I  was  so  happy  I  would  have  walked  all  the  way  barefoot  to 
get  there,  and  see  the  schools  and  the  village  and  Limmeridge  House  again. 
They  are  very  good  people  at  Todd's  Comer.  I  hope  I  shall  stay  there  a 
long  time.  There  is  only  one  thing  I  don't  like  about  them,  and  don't  like 
about  Mrs.  Clements " 

«*  What  is  it?" 

**  They  will  tease  me  about  dressing  all  in  white — ^they  Say  it  looks  so 
particular.  How  do  they  know  ?  Mrs.  Fairlie  knew  b^t.  Mrs.  Fairlie 
would  never  have  made  me  wear  this  ugly  blue  cloak  1  Ah !  she  was  fond 
of  white  in  her  lifetime ;  and  here  is  white  stone  about  her  grave — and  I 
am  making  it  whiter  for  her  sake.  She  often  wore  white  herself;  and  she 
always  dressed  her  little  daughter  in  white.  Is  Miss  Fairlie  well  and 
happy  ?    Does  she  wear  white  now,  as  she  used  when  she  was  a  girl  ?" 

Her  voice  sank  when  she  put  the  questions  about  Miss  Fairlie  ;  and  she 
turned  her  head  farther  and  farther  away  from  me.  I  thought  I  detected, 
in  Uie  alteration  of  her  manner,  an  uneasy  consciousness  of  the  risk  she 
had  run  in  sending  the  anonymous  letter;  and  I  instantly  determined  so  to 
frame  my  answer  as  to  surprise  her  into  owning  it 

**  Miss  Fairlie  is  not  very  well  or  very  happy  this  moming,"  I  said. 

She  murmured  a  few  words ;  but  they  were  spoken  so  confusedly,  and 
in  such  a  low  tone,  that  I  could  not  even  guess  at  what  they  meant. 

**Did  you  ask  me  why  Miss  Fairlie  was  neither  well  nor  happy  this 
moming?"  I  continued. 

**  No,"  she  said,  quickly  and  eagerly — "  oh,  no,  I  never  asked  that" 

"I  will  tell  you  without  your  asking,"  I  went  on.  "  Miss  Fairlie  has 
received  your  letter." 

She  had  been  down  on  her  knees  for  some  little  time  past,  carefully 


76  rii£  WOMAN  in  white. 

removing  the  last  weather-stains  left  about  the  inscription  while  we  wera 
speaking  together.  The  first  sentence  of  the  words  I  had  jnst  addressed  to 
her  made  her  pause  in  her  occupation,  and  turn  slowly  without  rising 
from  her  knees,  so  as  to  face  me.  The  second  sentence  literally  petrified 
her.  The  cloth  she  had  been  holding  dropped  from  her  hands ;  her  lips 
fell  apart ;  all  the  little  colour  that  there  was  naturally  in  her  face  left  it 
in  an  instant. 

"  How  do  you  know  ?"  she  said,  faintly.  "  Who  showed  it  to  you  ?" 
The  blood  rushed  back  into  her  face — rushed  overwhelmingly,  as  the  sense 
rushed  upon  her  mind  that  her  own  words  had  betrayed  her.  Slie  struck 
her  hands  together  in  despair.  **  I  never  wrote  it,"  she  gasped,  affrightedly ; 
'*  I  know  nothing  about  it  1" 

"  Yes,'*  I  said,  "  you  wrote  it>  and  you  know  about  it.  It  was  wrong  to 
send  such  a  letter ;  it  was  wrong  to  frighten  Miss  Fairlie.  If  you  had  any* 
thing  to  say  that  it  was  right  and  necessary  for  her  to  hear,  you  should 
hav6  gone  yourself  to  Limmeridge  House ;  you  should  have  spoken  to  the 
young  lady  with  your  own  lips." 

She  crouched  down  over  the  flat  stone  of  the  grave,  till  her  face  was 
hidden  on  it ;  and  made  no  reply. 

**  Miss  Fairlie  will  be  as  good  and  kind  to  you  as  her  mother  was,  if  you 
mean  well,"  I  went  on.  "  Miss  Fairlie  will  keep  your  secret,  and  not  let 
you  come  to  any  harm.  Will  you  see  her  to-morrow  at  the  farm  ?  Will 
you  meet  her  in  the  garden  at  Limmeridge  House  ?" 

**  Oh,  if  I  could  die,  and  be  hidden  and  at  rest  with  you  /"  Her  lips 
murmured  the  words  close  on  the  grave-stone ;  murmured  them  in  tones  of 
passionate  endearment,  to  the  dead  remains  beneath.  ''  Tou  know  how  I 
love  your  child,  for  your  sake  I  Oh,  Mrs.  Fairlie !  Mrs.  Fairlie  1  tell  me 
how  to  save  her.  Be  my  darhng  and  my  mother  once  more,  and  tell  me 
what  to  do  for  the  best." 

I  heard  her  lips  kissing  the  stone:  I  saw  her  hands  beating  on  it 
passionately.  The  sound  and  the  sight  deeply  affected  me.  I  stooped 
down,  and  took  the  poor  nelpless  hands  tenderly  in  mine,  and  tried  to 
soothe  her. 

It  was  useless.  She  snatched  her  hands  from  me,  and  never  moved  her 
face  from  the  stone.  Seeing  the  urgent  necessity  of  quieting  her  at  any 
hazard  and  by  any  means,  I  appealed  to  the  only  anxiety  that  she  appeared 
to  feel,  in  connexion  with  me  and  with  my  opinion  of  her — ^the  anxiety  to 
convince  me  of  her  fitness  to  be  mistress  of  her  own  actions. 

"  Come,  come,"  I  said,  gently.  "  Try  to  compose  yourself,  or  you  will 
make  me  alter  my  opinion  of  you.  Don't  let  me  think  that  the  person 
who  put  you  in  the  Asylum,  might  have  had  some  excuse " 

The  next  words  died  away  on  my  lips.  The  instant  I  risked  that  chance 
reference  to  the  person  who  had  put  her  in  the  Asylum,  she  sprang  up  on 


XnS  WOUAS  DC  WHITE.  77 

ber  knees.    A  most  extraordinAry  and  startling  change  passed  over  her. 
Uer  face,  at  all  ordioary  tunes  so  touching  to  look  at,  in  its  nenroiu  sensi- 
tiveness, weakness,  aud  nnoertainty,  became  suddenly  darkened  by  an 
expression  of  maniacally  intense  hatred  and  fear,  which  communicated  a 
wild,  unnatural  force  to  every  feature.    Her  eyes  dilated  in  the  dim  even- 
ing light,  like  the  eyes  of  a  wild  animaL    She  caught  up  the  cloth  that 
had  fallen  at  her  side,  as  if  it  had  been  a  living  creature  that  she  could 
kill,  and  crushed  it  in  both  her  hands  with  such  convulsive  strength  that 
the  few  drops  of  moisture  left  in  it  trickled  down  on  the  stone  beneath  her. 
''Talk  of  something  else,"  she  said,  whispering  through  her  teeth.    **  I 
shall  lose  myself  if  you  talk  of  Ihat." 

Every  vestige  of  the  gentler  thoughts  which  had  filled  her  mind  hardly 
a  minute  since  seemed  to  be  swept  from  it  now.  It  was  evident  that  the 
impression  left  by  Mrs.  Fairlie's  kindness  was  not,  as  I  had  supjosed,  the 
only  strong  impression  on  her  memory.  With  the  grateful  remembrance 
of  her  school-days  at  Limmeridge,  there  existed  the  vindictive  remem- 
brance of  the  wrong  inflicted  on  her  by  her  confinement  in  the  Asylum. 
Who  had  done  that  wrong  ?    Could  it  really  be  her  mother  C 

It  was  hard  to  give  up  pursuing  the  inquiry  to  that  final  point ;  but  I 
forced  myself  to  abandon  all  idea  of  continuing  it.  Seeing  her  as  I  saw 
her  now,  it  would  have  been  cruel  to  think  of  anything  but  the  necessity 
and  the  humanity  of  restoring  her  composure. 
"I  will  talk  of  nothing  to  distress  you,"  I  said,  soothingly. 
**  You  want  something,*'  she  answered,  sharply  and  suspiciously.  **  Don't 
look  at  me  like  that.    Speak  to  me ;  tell  me  what  you  want.*' 

*'  I  only  want  you  to  quiet  yourself,  and,  when  you  are  calmer,  to  think 
over  what  I  have  said." 

''  Said  ?"  She  paused ;  twisted  the  cloth  in  her  hands,  backwards  and 
forwards;  and  whispered  to  herself,  **  What  is  it  he  said?*'  She  turned 
again  towards  me,  and  shook  her  head  impatiently.  ''Why  don*t  you 
help  me?"  she  asked,  with  angry  suddenness. 

"  Yes,  yes,"  I  said ;  "  I  will  help  you ;  and  you  will  soon  remember.  I 
asked  you  to  see  Miss  Fairlie  to-morrow,  and  to  tell  her  the  truth  about 
the  letter." 

•«Ah!  Miss  FairUe— Fairlie— Fairlie ** 

The  mere  utterance  of  the  loved,  familiar  name  seemed  to  quiet  her. 
Her  face  softened  and  grew  like  itself  again. 

"You  need  have  no  fear  of  Miss  Fairlie,"  I  continued ;  "and  no  fear  of 
getting  into  trouble  through  the  letter.  She  knows  so  much  about  it 
already,  that  you  will  have  no  difficulty  in  telling  her  all.  There  can  be 
little  necessity  for  concealment  where  there  is  hardly  anything  left  to  con- 
ceaL  You  mention  no  names  in  the  letter ;  but  Miss  Fairlie  knows  th«it 
the  person  you  write  of  is  Sir  Percival  Glyde— " 


78  THE  WOMAM   IN  WHITB. 

The  instant  I  prononnced  that  name  she  started  to  her  feet ;  and  a 
■cream  burst  from  her  that  rang  through  the  churchyard  and  made  my 
heart  leap  in  me  with  the  terror  of  it.  The  dark  deformity  of  the  expres- 
sion which  had  just  left  her  face,  lowered  on  it  once  more,  with  doubled 
and  trebled  intensity.  The  shriek  at  the  name,  the  reiterated  look  ot 
hatred  and  fear  that  instantly  followed,  told  all.  Not  even  a  last  doubt 
now  remained.  Her  mother  was  guiltless  of  imprisoning  her  in  the  Asy- 
lum.   A  man  had  shut  her  up — and  that  man  was  Sir  Percival  Glyde. 

The  scream  had  reached  other  ears  than  mine.  On  one  side,  I  heard  the 
door  of  the  sexton*s  cottage  open ;  on  the  other,  I  heard  the  voice  of  her 
eompanion,  the. woman  in  the  shawl,  the  woman  whom  she  had  spoken  of 
as  Mrs.  Clements. 

"  I'm  coming !  I'm  coming  I"  cried  the  voice,  from  behind  the  clump  of 
dwarf  trees. 

In  a  moment  more,  Mrs.  Clements  hurried  into  view. 

"  Who  are  you  P"  she  cried,  facing  me  resolutely,  as  she  set  her  foot  on 
the  stile.     **  How  dare  you  frighten  a  poor  helpless  woman  like  thatP' 

She  was  at  Anne  Catherick's  side,  and  had  put  one  arm  around  her, 
before  I  could  answer.  "  What  is  it,  my  dear  ?"  she  said.  "  What  has  he 
done  to  you?" 

" Notiiing,"  the  poor  creature  answered.  /'Nothing.  I'm  only 
frightened." 

Mrs.  Clements  turned  on  me  with  a  fearless  indignation,  for  which  I 
respected  her. 

"  I  should  be  heartily  ashamed  of  myself  if  I  deserved  that  angry  look,** 
I  said.  "  But  I  do  not  deserve  it.  I  have  unfortunately  startled  her, 
without  intending  it.  This  is  not  the  first  time  she  has  seen  me.  Ask 
her  yourself,  and  she  will  tell  you  that  I  am  incapable  of  willingly  harm- 
ing her  or  any  woman." 

I  spoke  distinctly,  so  that  Anne  Catherick  might  hear  and  understand 
me  :  and  I  saw  that  the  words  and  their  meaning  had  reached  her. 

"  Yes,  yes,'*  she  said ;  "  he  was  good  to  me  once ;  he  helped  mo'  '  * 
She  whispered  the  rest  into  her  friend's  ear. 

"  Strange,  indeed !"  said  Mrs.  Clements,  with  a  look  of  perplexity.  **  It 
makes  all  the  difference,  though.  Tm  sorry  I  spoke  so  rough  to  you,  sir ; 
but  you  must  own  that  appearances  looked  suspicious  to  a  stranger.  It's 
more  my  fault  than  yours,  for  humouring  her  whims,  and  letting  her  be 
alone  in  such  a  place  as  this.    Come,  my  dear — come  home  now." 

I  thought  the  good  woman  looked  a  little  uneasy  at  the  prospect  of  the 
walk  back,  and  I  offered  to  go  with  them  until  they  were  both  mthin 
sight  of  home.  Mrs.  Clements  thanked  me  civilly,  and  declined.  She 
said  they  were  sure  to  meet  aome  of  the  fieum-labourers,  as  soon  %b  they 
got  to  the  moor. 


TKX  WOMAN  nr  imiTK.  79 

''Tiy  to  forgTve  me,"  I  said,  when  Anne  Catherick  took  her  fiiend's  anu 
to  go  away.  Innocent  as  I  had  been  of  any  intention  to  terrify  and  agitata 
her,  my  heart  smote  me  as  I  looked  at  the  poor,  pale,  frightened  face. 

"  I  will  try,"  she  answered.  "  But  yon  know  too  much ;  I'm  airaid 
you'll  always  frighten  me  now." 

Mrs.  Clements  glanced  at  me,  and  shook  her  head  pityingly. 

"Good  nightj  sir,"  she  said.  "You  couldn't  help  it,  I  know;  but  I 
wish  it  was  me  you  had  frightened,  and  not  her." 

They  moved  away  a  few  steps.  I  thought  they  had  left  me ;  but  Anne 
Baddenly  stopped,  and  separated  herself  from  her  friend. 

*  Wait  a  Uttle,"  she  said.    "  I  must  say  good-by." 

She  returned  to  the  graye,  rested  both  hands  tenderly  on  the  marble 
cross,  and  kissed  it. 

"Pm  better  now,"  she  sighed,  looking  up  at  me  quietly.  "I  forgive 
you." 

She  joined  her  companion  again,  and  they  left  the  burial-ground.  I  saw 
them  stop  near  the  church,  and  speak  to  the  sexton's  wife,  who  had  come 
from  the  cottage,  and  had  waited,  watching  us  from  a  distance.  Then 
they  went  on  again  up  the  path  that  led  to  the  moor.  I  looked  after  Anne 
Catherick  as  she  disappeared,  till  all  trace  of  her  had  faded  in  the  twili^t 
--looked  as  anxiously  and  sorrowfully  as  if  that  was  the  last  I  was  to  see 
in  this  weary  world  of  the  woman  in  white. 

XIV. 
Half  an  hour  later,  I  was  badk  at.the  housed  mi  was  infomiing  Miss  Qal- 
eomhe  of  all  that  had  happened. 

She  listened  to  me  from  beginning  to  end*  with  a  steady,  silent  attention, 
which,  in  a  woman  of  her  temperament  and  disposition,  was  the  strongest 
proof  that  could  be  offered  of  the  serious  inanner  in  which  my  narrative 
affected  her. 

"My  mind  misgives  me,"  was  all  she  said  when  I  had  done.  ''My 
^d  misgives  me  sadly  about  the  future." 

"  The  future  may  depend,"  I  suggested,  ''  on  the  use  we  make  of  the 
present.  It  is  not  improbable  that  Anne  Catherick  may  speak  more 
I'eadily  and  unreservedly  to  a  woman  llian  she  has  spoken  to  me.  If  Miss 
Fairlie ^ 

"  Kot  to  be  thought  of  for  a  moment,"  interposed  Miss  Haloombe,in  her 
most  decided  manner. 

"Let  me  suggest,  then,"  I  continued,  ''that  you  should  see  Anne 
Catherick  yourself,  and  do  all  you  can  to  win  her  confidence.  For  my  own 
part,  I  shrink  from  the  idea  of  alarming  the  poor  creature  a  second  time, 
*a  I  have  most  unhappily  alarmed  iier  already.  Bo  you  see  any  objection 
to  accompanying  me  to  tiie  farm-house  to-morrow?" 


BO  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITS. 

"  None  whatever.  I  will  go  anywhere  and  do  anything  to  serve  Lauia'i 
interests.    What  did  you  say  the  place  was  called  ?** 

"  You  must  know  it  well.    It  is  called  Todd's  Comer." 

"  Certainly.  Todd's  Comer  is  one  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  fiftnns.  Our^dairy- 
maid  here  is  the  fiftmiei^s  second  daughter.  She  goes  backwards  and  for- 
wards constantly,  between  this  house  and  her  father's  fami ;  and  she  may 
have  heard  or  seen  something  which  it  may  be  useful  to  us  to  know. 
Shall  I  ascertain,  at  onoe,  if  the  girl  is  down  stairs  ?" 

She  rang  the  bell,  and  sent  the  servant  with  his  message.  He  returned, 
and  announced  that  the  dairy-maid  was  then  at  the  farm.  She  had  not 
been  there  for  the  last  three  days ;  and  the  housekeeper  had  given  her 
leave  to  go  home,  for  an  hour  or  two,  that  evening. 

**  I  can  speak  to  her  to-morrow,"  said  Miss  Halcombe,  when  the  servant 
had  left  the  room  again.  ''  In  the  mean  time,  let  me  thoroughly  under- 
stand the  object  to  be  gained  by  my  interview  with  Anne  Catherick.  Is 
there  no  doubt  in  your  mind  that  the  person  who  confined  her  in  the 
Asylum  was  Sir  Percival  Glyde  ?" 

**  There  is  not  the  shadow  of  a  doubt.  The  only  mystery  that  remains, 
is  the  mystery  of  his  motive.  Looking  to  the  great  difference  between  his 
station  in  life  and  hers,  which  seems  to  preclude  all  idea  of  the  most  distant 
relationship  between  them,  it  is  of  the  last  importance — even  assuming 
that  she  really  required  to  be  placed  under  restraint — ^to  know  why  he 
should  have  been  tiie  person  to  assume  the  serious  responsibility  of  shut- 
ting her  up ^ 

'*  In  a  private  Asylum,  I  think  yon  said  ?** 

"  Yes,  in  a  private  Asylum,  where  a  sum  of  money  which  no  poor  person 
could  afford  to  give,  must  have  been  paid  for  her  maintenance  as  a 
patient." 

'*  I  see  where  the  doubt  lies,  Mr.  Hartright ;  and  I  promise  you  that  it 
shall  be  set  at  rest,  whether  Anne  Catherick  assists  us  to-morrow  or  not. 
Sir  Percival  Glyde  shall  not  be  long  in  this  house  without  satisfying  Mr. 
Gilmore,  and  satisfying  me.  My  sister's  future  is  my  dearest  care  in  life ; 
and  I  have  influence  enough  over  her  to  give  me  some  power,  where  her 
marriage  is  concemed,  in  the  disposal  of  it." 

We  parted  for  the  night 

After  breakfast,  the  next  morning,  an  obstacle,  which  the  events  of  the 
evening  before  had  put  out  of  my  memory,  interposed  to  prevent  our  pro- 
ceeding immediately  to  the  farm.  This  was  my  last  day  at  Limmeridge 
House  ;  and  it  was  necessary,  as  soon  as  the  post  came  in,  to  follow  Miss 
Haloombe's  advice,  and  to  a^  Mr.  Fairlie's  permission  to  shorten  my  en- 
gagement by  a  montn,  in  o<»uddeiatlon  of  an  unforeseen  necessity  for  my 
return  to  Londcn. 


THE  WOMAN  IH  WHITS.  81 

Fortunately  for  the  probability  of  this  excuse,  so  far  as  appearances  were 
concerned,  tlie  post  brou^t  me  two  letters  from  London  friends,  that 
morning.  I  took  them  away  at  once  to  my  own  room ;  and  sent  the  serr- 
uit  with  a  message  to  Mr.  Fairlie,  requesting  to  know  when  I  could  see 
Aim  on  a  matter  of  business. 

I  awaited  the  man's  return,  free  from  the  slightest  feeling  of  anxiety 
about  the  manner  in  which  his  master  might  receive  my  application. 
With  Mr.  Fairlie's  leave  or  without  it,  I  must  go.  The  consciousness  of 
having  now  taken  the  first  step  on  the  dreary  journey  which  was  hence- 
forth to- separate  my  life  from  Miss  Fairlie's  seemed  to  have  blunted  my 
aenaihility  to  every  consideration  connected  with  myself.  I  had  done  with 
my  poor  man's  touchy  pride ;  I  had  done  with  all  my  little  artist  vanities 
No  insolence  of  Mr.  Fairlie's,  if  he  chose  to  be  insolent,  could  wound  me 
now. 

The  servant  returned  with  a  message  for  which  I  was  not  unprepared. 
Mr.  Fairlie  r^retted  that  the  state  of  his  health,  on  that  particular  morn- 
ing, was  such  as  to  preclude  all  hope  of  his  having  the  pleasure  of  receiving 
me.  He  begged,  therefore,  that  I  would  accept  his  apologies,  and  kindly 
communicate  what  I  had  to  say,  in  the  form  of  a  letter.  Similar  messages 
to  this  had  reached  me,  at  various  intervals,  during  my  three  months' 
residence  in  the  house.  Throughout  the  whole  of  that  period,  Mr.  Fairlie 
had  been  rejoiced  to  "  possess  "  me,  but  had  never  been  well  enough  to  see 
me  for  a  second  time.  The  servant  took  every  fresh  batch  of  drawings 
that  I  mounted  and  restored,  back  to  his  master,  with  my  "  respects ;"  and 
returned  empty-handed  with  Mr.  Fairlie's  "  kind  compliments,"  "  best 
thanks,"  and  *'  sincere  regrets "  that  the  state  of  his  health  still  obliged 
him  to  remain  a  solitary  prisoner  in  his  own  room.  A  more  satisfactory 
arrangement  to  both  sides  could  not  possibly  have  been  adopted.  It 
would  be  hard  to  say  which  of  us,  under  the  circumstances,  felt  the  most 
grateful  sense  of  obligation  to  Mr.  Fairlie's  accommodating  nerves. 

I  sat  down  at  once  to  write  the  letter,  expressing  myself  in  it  as  civilly, 
B8  clearly,  and  as  briefly  as  possible.  Mr.  Fairlie  did  not  hurry  his  reply. 
Nearly  an  hour  elapsed  before  the  answer  was  placed  in  my  hands.  It 
was  written  with  beautiful  regularity  and  neatness  of  character,  in  violet- 
coloured  ink,  on  note-paper  as  smooth  as  ivory  and  almost  as  thick  as  card- 
board ;  and  it  addressed  me  in  these  terms : — 

**  Mr.  Fairlie's  compliments  to  Mr.  Hartright.  Mr.  Fairlie  is  more  sur- 
prised and  disappointed  than  he  can  say  (in  the  present  state  of  his  health) 
by  Mr.  Hartright's  application.  Mr.  Fairlie  is  not  a  man  of  business,  but 
he  has  consulted  his  steward,  who  is,  and  that  person  confirms  Mr.  Fairlie's 
opinion  that  Mr.  Hartright's  request  to  be  allowed  to  break  his  engagement 
cannot  be  justified  by  any  necessity  whatever,  excepting  perhaps  a  case  o"^ 

Q 


82  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

life  aud  death.  If  the  highly-appireciatlye  feeling  towards  Art  and  its  pro- 
fessor?, which  it  is  the  consolatioD  and  happiness  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  suffering 
existence  to  cultivate,  conld  he  easily  shaken,  Mr.  Hartright^s  present  pro- 
ceeding would  have  shaken  it.  It  has  not  done  so— except  in  the  instance 
of  Mr.  Hartright  himself. 

**  Having  stated  his  opinion — ^so  far,  that  is  to  say,  as  acute  nervous 
suifering  will  allow  him  to  state  anything — Mr.  Fairlie  has  nothing  to  add 
but  the  expression  of  his  decision,  in  reference  to  the  highly  irregular  appli- 
cation that  has  been  made  to  him.  Perfect  repose  of  body  and  mind  being 
to  the  last  degree  important  in  his  case,  Mr.  Fairlie  will  not  suffer  Mr. 
Hartright  to  disturb  that  repose  by  remaining  in  the  house  under  circum- 
stances of  an  essentially  irritating  nature  to  both  sides.  Accordingly,  Mr, 
Fairlie  waives  his  right  of  refusal,  purely  -with  a  view  to  the  preservation 
of  his  own  tranquillity — and  informs  Mr.  Hartright  that  he  may  go."- 

•  (■ 

I  folded  the  letter  up,  and  put  it  away  with  my  other  papers.  The  time 
had  been  when  I  should  have  resented  it  as  an  insult :  I  accepted  it,  now, 
as  a  written  release  from  my  engagement.  It  was  off  niy  mind,  it  was 
almost  out  of  my  memory,  when  I  went  down  stairs  to  the  breakfast-room, 
and  informed  Miss  Halcombe  that  I  was  ready  to  walk  with  her  to  the 
farm. 

"  Has  Mr.  Fairlie  given  you  a  satisfactory  answier  ?**  she  asked,  as  we 
left  the  house. 

"  He  has  allowed  me  to  go,  Miss  Halcombe.** 

She  looked  up  at  me  quickly ;  and  then,  for  the  first  time  since  I  had 
known  her,  took  my  arm  of  her  own  accord.  No  words  could  have 
expressed  so  delicately  that  she  understood  how  the  periiiission  to  leave 
my  employment  had  been  granted,  and  that  she  gave  me  her  sympathy, 
not  as  my  superior,  but  as  my  friend.  I  had  not  felt  the  man's  insolent 
letter ;  but  I  felt  deeply  the  woman's  atoning  kindness. 

On  our  way  to  the  farm  we  arranged  that  Miss  Halcombe  was  to  enter 
the  house  alone,  and  that  I  was  to  wait  outside,  within  call.  We  adopted 
this  mode  of  proceeding  from  an  apprehfension  that  my  presence,  after  what 
had  happened  in  the  churchyard  the  evening  before,  might  have  the  ieffect 
of  renewing  Anne  Catherick's  nervous  dread,  and  of  rendering  her  ad* 
ditionally  distrustful  of  the  advances  of  a  lady  who  was  a  stranger  4o  her. 
Miss  Halcombe  left  me,  with  the  intention  of  speaking,  in  the  first 
instance,  to  the  farmer's  wife  (of  whose  friendly  readiness  to  help  her  in 
any  way  she  was  well  assured),  while  I  waited  for  her  in  the  near  neigh- 
bourhood of  the  house. 

I  had  fully  expected  to  be  left  alone,  for  some  time.  To  my  surprise, 
however,  iittle  more  than  five  minutes  had  elapsed,  before  Miss  Halcombe 
returned. 


THE  W0M4N  IH  WHITK.  83 

**  Does  Anne  Catherick  refuae  to  see  yon  ?"  I  asked  in  aslonislunentt 

"Anne  Oatherick  is  gone,"  replied  Miss  Haloombe. 

•*  Gone  r 

"  Gone,  with  Mrs.  Clements.  They  both  left  the  fann  at  eight  o  cU^cV 
Ais  morning," 

I  could  say  nothing — ^I  conld  only  feel  that  our  last  chance  of  discovery 
had  gone  witii  them. 

"  All  that  Mrs.  Todd  knows  about  her  guests,  I  know,"  Miss  Halcomlw 
went  on ;  "  and  it  leaves  ilie,  as  it  leaves  her,  in  the  dark.  They  both 
came  back  safe,  last  night,  after  they  left  you,  and  they  passed  tho  first 
part  of  the  evening  with  Mr.  Todd's  family,  as  usual.  Just  before  supper- 
time,  however,  Anne  Catherick  startled  them  all  by  being  suddenly  s'^ized 
with  faintness.  She  had  had  a  similar  attack,  of  a  less  alarming  kind,  on 
the  day  she  arrived  at  the  farm  ;  and  Mrs.  Todd  had  connected  it,  on  that 
occasion,  with  something  she  was  reading  at  the  time  in  our  local  news- 
paper, which  lay  on  the  farm  table,  and  which  she  had  taken  up  oiilf  a* 
minute  or  two  before." 

**  Does  Mrs.  Todd  know  what  particular  passage  in  the  newspaper  afTocted 
her  in  that  way  ?"  I  inquired. 

"  No,"  replied  Miss  Halcombe.  •*  She  had  looked  it  over,  and  had  seen 
nothing  in  it  to  tigitate  any  one.  I  asked  leave,  however,  to  look  it  over 
in  my  turn  ;  and  at  the  very  first  page  I  opened,  I  found  that  tho  editor 
had  enriched  his  small  stock  of  news  by  drawing  upon  our  family  affairs, 
and  had  published  my  sister's  marriage  engagement,  among  his  olhef 
announcements,  copied  from  the  London  papers,  of  Marriages  in  High  Life. 
I  concluded  at  once  that  this  was  the  paragraph  which  had  so  stiangely 
affected  Anne  Catherick ;  and  I  thought  I  saw  in  it,  also,  the  origin  of  the 
letter  which  she  sent  to  our  house  the  next  day.** 

"  There  can  be  no  doubt  in  either  case.  But  what  did  you  hear  alwut 
her  second  attack  of  faintness  yesterday  evening  ?" 

**  Kothing.  The  cause  of  it  is  a  complete  mystery.  There  was  no 
stranger  in  the  room.  The  only  visitor  was  our  dairymaid,  who,  as  I  told 
you,  is  one  of  Mr.  Todd's  daughters ;  and  the  only  conversation  was  the 
usual  gossip  about  local  affairs.  They  heard  her  cry  out,  and  saw  her 
torn  deadly  pale,  without  the  slightest  apparent  reason.  "Mrs.  T(Mld  and 
Mrs.  Clements  took  her  up-stairs  ;  and  Mrs.  Clements  remained  with  her.. 
Tliey  were  heard  talking  together  until  long  after  the  usual  bedtime ;  imd, 
early  this  morning,  Mrs.  Clements  took  Mrs.  Todd  aside,  and  amazed  her 
heyond  all  power  of  expression,  by  saying  that  they  must  go.  The  only 
explanation  Mrs.  Todd  could  extract  from  her  guest  was,  that  something, 
had  happened,  which  was  not  the  fault  of  any  one  at  the  fann-house,  but 
which  was  serious  enough  to  make  Anne  Catherick  resolve  to  leave 
Limmeridgc  immediately.    It  was  quite  useless  to  press  Mrs.  Clemenfp 


84  TUli!  -iVOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

be  more  explicit.  She  only  shook  her  head,  and  said  that,  for  Anne^s 
sake,  she  must  beg  and  pray  that  no  one  would  question  her.  All  she 
could  repeat,  with  eveiy  appearance  of  being  seriously  agitated  herself,  was 
that  ADne  must  go,  that  she  must  go  with  her,  and  that  the  destination  tr 
whicb  they  might  both  betake  themselves  must  be  kept  a  secret  from 
everybody.  I  spare  you  the  recital  of  Mrs.  Todd's  hospitable  remon- 
strances and  refusals.  It  ended  in  her  driving  them  both  to  the  nearest 
station,  more  than  three  hours  since.  She  tried  hard,  on  the  way,  to  get 
them  to  speak  more  plainly ;  but  without  success.  And  she  set  them 
down  outside  the  station-door,  so  hurt  and  offended  by  the  unceremonious 
abruptness  of  their  departure  and  their  unfriendly  reluctance  to  place  the 
least  confidence  in  her,  that  she  drove  away  in  anger,  without  so  much  as 
stopping  to  bid  them  good-by.  That  is  exactly  what  has  taken  place. 
Search  your  own  memory,  Mr.  Hartright,  and  tell  me  if  anything  happened 
in  the  burial-ground  yesterday  evening  which  can  at  all  account  for  tiie 
extraordinary  departure  of  those  two  women  this  mommg." 

'*  I  should  like  to  account  first,  Miss  Halcombe,  for  the  sudden  change 
in  Anne  Gatherick  which  alarmed  them  at  the  farm-house,  hours  after  she 
and  I  had  parted,  and  when  time  enough  had  elapsed  to  quiet  any  violent 
agitation  that  I  might  have  been  unfortunate  enough  to  cause.  Did  you 
inquire  particularly  about  the  gossip  which  was  going  on  in  the  room  when 
she  turned  faint  ?" 

"  Yes.  But  Mrs.  Todd's  household  affairs  seem  to  have  divided  her 
attention,  that  evening,  with  the  talk  in  the  farm-house  parlour.  She 
could  only  tell  me  that  it  was  '  just  the  news' — ^meaning,  I  suppose,  that 
they  all  talked  as  usual  about  each  other." 

"  The  dairymaid's  memory  may  be  better  than  her  mother's,"  I  said- 
*'  It  may  be  as  well  for  you  to  speak  to  the  girl.  Miss  Halcombe,  as  sooi 
as  we  get  back." 

My  suggestion  was  acted  on  the  moment  we  returned  to  the  house. 
Miss  Halcombe  led  me  round  to  the  servant's  offices,  and  we  found  the 
girl  in  the  dairy,  with  her  sleeves  tucked  up  to  her  shoulders,  cleaning  ft 
large  milk-pan,  and  singing  blithely  over  her  work. 

"  I  have  brought  this  gentleman  to  see  your  dairy,  Hannah,"  said 
Miss  Halcombe.  "  It  is  one  of  the  sights  of  the  house,  and  it  always  does 
you  credit." 

The  girl  blushed  and  curtseyed,  and  said,  shyly,  that  she  hoped  she 
always  did  her  best  to  keep  things  neat  and  clean. 

**  We  have  just  come  from  your  father's,"  Miss  Halcombe  continued. 
•*  You  were  there  yesterday  evening,  I  hear ;  and  you  found  visitors  at  the 
house  ?'' 

**  Yes,  miss." 

♦*  One  of  them  was  taken  faint  and  ill,  I  am  told  ?    I  suppoae  nothin<» 


THE   WOMAN    ISk   WHITB.  85 

was  said  or  done  to  frighten  her  ?  You  were  not  talking  of  anything  very 
terrible  were  you  ?" 

"  Oh,  no,  miss !"  said  the  girl,  laughing.  **  We  were  only  talking  of 
the  news." 

*'  Your  sisters  told  you  the  news  at  Todd's  C!omer,  I  suppose  ?*' 

«  Yes,  miss." 

*^  And  you  told  them  the  news  at  Limmeridge  House  ?" 

^*  Yes,  miss.  And  I'm  quite  sure  nothing  was  said  to  frighten  the  poor 
thing,  for  I  was  talking  when  she  was  taken  ill.  It  gave  me  quite  a  turn, 
miss,  to  see  it,  never  having  been  taken  faint  myself." 
>  Before  any  more  questions  could  be  put  to  her,  she  was  called  away  to 
receive  a  basket  of  eggs  at  the  dairy  door.  As  she  left  us,  I  whispered  to 
Miss  Halcombe : 

"  Ask  her  if  she  happened  to  mention,  last  night,  that  visitors  were 
expected  at  Limmeridge  House." 

Miss  Halcombe  showed  me,  by  a  look,  that  she  understood,  and  put  the 
question  as  soon  as  the  dairymaid  returned  to  us. 

"  Oh,  yes,  miss ;  I  mentioned  that,"  said  the  girl  simply,  **  The  com- 
pany coming,  and  the  accident  to  the  brindled,  cow,  was  all  the  news  I  had 
to  take  to  the  farm." 

**  Did  you  mention  names  ?  Bid  you  tell  them  that  Sir  Percival  Glyde 
was  expected  on  Monday  ?" 

"  Yes,  miss — ^I  told  them  Sir  Percival  Glyde  was  coming.  I  hope  there 
was  no  harm  in  it ;  I  hope  I  didn't  do  wrong." 

"  Oh  no,  no  harm.  Gome,  Mr.  Hartright ;  Hannah  will  begin  to  think 
us  in  the  way,  if  we  interrupt  her  any  longer  over  her  work." 

We  stopped  and  looked  at  one  another,  the  moment  we  were  alone  again, 

"  Is  there  any  doubt  in  your  mind,  now,  Miss  Halcombe  ?" 

"  Sir  Percival  Glyde  shsJl  remove  that  doubt,  Mr.  Hartright— or,  Laura 
Fairlie  shall  never  be  his  wife." 

XV. 

As  we  walked  round  to  the  front  of  the  house,  a  fly  from  the  railway 
approached  us  along  the  drive.  Miss  Halcombe  waited  on  the  door  steps 
until  the  fly  drew  up ;  and  then  advanced  to  shake  hands  with  an  old 
gentleman,  who  got  out  briskly  the  moment  the  steps  were  let  down. 
Mr,  Gilmore  had  arrived. 

I  looked  at  him,  when  we  were  introduced  to  each  other,  with  an  interest 
and  a  curiosity  which  I  could  hardly  conceal.  Th'iS  old  man  was  to  remain 
at  Limmeridge  House  after  I  had  left  it ;  he  was  to  hear  Sir  Percival 
Glyde*s  explanation,  and  was  to  give  Miss  Halcombe  the  assistance  of  his 
experience  in  forming  her  judgment ;  he  was  to  wait  until  the  question  o' 
the  marriage  was  set  at  rest ;  and  his  hand,  if  that  question  were  decid 


Bl>  THifi  WOMAN   IN   WlUTJi:. 

ir  the  affirmative,  was  to  draw  the  settlement  wiiich  bound  Miss  Fairlie 
11  tevocably  to  her  engagement.  Even  then,  when  I  knew  nothing  by  com-. 
liartBon  with  What  I  kmdtW  now*  I  looked  at  the  family  lawyer  with  an 
interest  which  I  had  never  felt  before  in  the  presence  of  any  man'bxeathifig 
who  was  a  total  stxanger  to  me.. 

In  external  appearance,  Mr.  Gilmore  was  the  exact  oppoaite.  of  the 
conventional  idesl  of  an  tM  UMyQX,  '  Uia  oomplelion  Was  florid;  lua  white 
hair  wifi.woifn  xather  long,  tojud  kept  canefuUy.  brushed^  his  blaok  coat, 
waistcoat,  and  trousers,  fitted  him  with  perfect  neatness ;  his  white  cravat 
was- carefully  tied;  and  his  lavender-coloured  kid  gbves  might  have 
adorned  the  hands  of  a  fashionable  clergyman,  without  fear  and  without 
reproach.  His  manners  wera  .pleasantly  marked  by  the  formal  grace  and 
refinement  of  the  old  school  of  politeness,  quickened  by  the  invigorating 
sharpness  and  readi^iess  of  a  man  whose  business  in  life  obliges  him  always 
to  keep  his  faculties  in  good  working  orden  A  sanguine  constitution  and 
fedr  prospects  to  begin  with ;  a  long  subsequent  career  of  creditable  and 
comfortable  prosperity ;  a.  cheerful,  diligent,  widely-respected  old  age— ^ 
such  were  'the  general  impressions  I  derived  from  my  introduction  to 
Mr.  Gilmore ;  and  it  is  but  fair  to  him  to  add,  that  the  knowledge  I  gained 
by  later  and  better  experience  only  tended  to  confirm  Chem. 

I  left  the  old  gentleman  and  Miss  Halc6mbe  to  enter  the  house  together, 
and  to  talk  of  family  matters  undisturbed  by  the  restraint  of  a  stranger^a 
presence.  They  ccosaed  the  hall  on  their  way  to  the  drawing-room ;  and 
I  descended  the  steps  again,'  to  wander  aoout  the  garden  alone. 

My  hours  were  numbered  at  Iiinm:ieiidge  House;  my  departure  the  next 
morning  was  irrevocably  settled;  my  share  in  liie  investigation' which  the 
anonymous  letter  had  rendered  necessary^  was  at  an  end.  No  harm  oould 
be  done  to  any  one  but  myself,  if  I  let  my  heart  loose  again,  for  the  little 
time  that  was  left  me,  from  the  cold  cruelty  of  restraint  which  neoes^ty 
had  forced  me  to  inflict  upon  it,  and  took  tny  farewell  of  the  scenes  which 
were  associated  with  the  brief  dream-time  of  my  happiness  and  my  love. 

I  turned  instinctively  to  the  walk  beneath  my  study-window,  where  I 
had  deen  her  the  evening  before  with  her  little  dog ;  and  followed  the  path 
which  her  dear  feet  had  trodden  so  often,  till  I  came  to  the  wicket  gate 
ihat  led  into  her  rose  garden.  The  winter  bareness  spread  drearily  over  it, 
now.  The  flowers  that  she  had  iaught  me  to  distinguish  by  their  names, 
the  flowers  that  I  had  taught  her  to  paint  from,  were  gone ;  and  the  tiny 
white  paths  that  led  between  the  beds,  were  damp  and  green  already.  I 
went  on  to  the  avenue  of  trees,  where  we  had  breathed  together  the  warm 
fragrance  of  August  evenings ;  where  we  had  admired  together  the  myriad 
combinations  of  shade  and  sunlight  that  dappled  liie  ground  at  our  feet. 
The  leaves  fell  about  me  from  the  groaning  branches,  and  the  earthy  decay 
in  the  atmosphere  chilled  me  to  the  bones.    A  little  farther  on,  and  I  was 


THlb   WO^VAM   IN    WHiTK.  87 

out  of  the  groiindB,  and  following  the  lane  that  wonnd  gently  upward  to 

the  nearest  hills.    The  old  felled  tree  by  the  wayside,  on  which  we  had  sat 

to  rest^  was  sodden  with  rain ;  and  the  tuft  of  ferns  and  grasses  which  ] 

had  drawn  for  her,  nestling  under  the  rough  stone  wall  in  front  of  us,  had 

tamed  to  a  pool  of  water,  stagnating  round  an  island  of  draggled  weeds.    I 

g»ned  the  smnmit  of  the  hill ;  and  looked  at  the  view  which  we  had  so 

often  admired  in  the  haj^ier  time.    It  was  cold  and  barren — ^it  was  no 

longer  the  view  that  I  remembered.    The  sunshine  of  her  presenoe  was  far 

from  me ;  the  charm  o£  her  voice  no  longer  murmured  in  my  ear.    She 

had  talked  to  me,  on  the  spot  from  which  I  now  looked  down,  of  her 

father,  who  was  her  last  surviving  parent ;  had  told  me  how  fond  of  each 

other  they  had  been,  and  how  sadly  she  missed  him  still,  when  she  entered 

certain  rooms  in  the  house,  and  when  she  took  up  forgotten  occupations 

and  amusements  with  which  he  had  been  associated.    Was  the  view  that  I 

had  seen,  while  listening  to  those  words,  the  view  that  I  saw  now,  standing 

on  the  hill-top  by  myself?    I  turned,  and  left  it ;  I  wound  my  way  back 

again,  over  the  moor,  and  round  the  sandhills,  down  to  the  beach.    There 

was  ^e  white  n^e  of  the  surf,  and  the  multitudinous  glory  c^  the  leaping 

waves — ^bat  where  was  the  place  on  which  she  had  once  drawn  idle  figures 

with  her  poiasol  in  the'  sand ;  the  place  where  we  had  sat  together,  while 

she  talked  to  me  about  myself  and  my  home,  while  she  asked  me  a 

woman's  minutely  observant  questions  about  my  mother  and  my  sister,  and 

innocently  wondered  whether  I  should  ever  leave  my  lonely  chambers  and 

have  a  wife  and  a  house  of  my  own  ?     Wind  and  wave  had  long  since 

smoothed  out  the  ttace  of  her  which  she  had  left  in  those  marks  on  the  sand. 

I  looked  over  the  wide  monotony  of  the  sea-side  prospect,  and  the  place  in 

which  we  two  had  idled  away  the  sunny  hours,  was  as  lost  to  me  as  if  I 

had  never  known  it,  as  strange  to  itne  as  if  I  stood  already  on  a  foreign  shore. 

The  empty  silence  of  the  beach  struck  cold  to  my  heart.  I  returned  to 
the  house  and  the  garden,  where  traces  were  left- to  speak  of  her  at  every 
turn. 

On  the  west  terrace  walk,  I  met  Mr.  G-ilmore.  He  was  evidently  in 
seardi  of  me;  for  he  quickened  his  pace  when  we  caught  sight  of  each  other. 
The  state  of  my  spirits  little  fitted  me  for  the  society  of  a  stranger.  But 
the  meeting  was  inevitable ;  and  I  resigned  myself  to  make  the  best  of  it. 

"  You  are  the  very- person  I  wanted  to  see,"  said  the  old  gentleman.  **  I 
had  two  words  to  say  to  you,  my  dear  sir ;  and,  if  you  have  no  objection,  I 
will  avail  myself  of  the  present  opportunity.  To  put  it  plainly,  Miss 
Halcombe  and  I  have  been  talking  over  family  affairs — affairs  which  are 
the  cause  of  my  being  here — and,  in  the  course  of  our  conversation,  she 
was  naturally  led  to  tell  me  of  this  tmpleasant  matter  connected  with  the 
anonymous  letter,  and  of  the  share  which  you  have  most  creditably  ap'* 
properly  taken  in  &e  prooeedinss  so  far.    That  share,  I  quite  imderstr 


88  IIU:  WOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

gives  you  on  interest  which  you  might  not  otnerwise  have  felt,  iu  knowing 
that  the  future  management  of  the  investigation,  which  you  have  begun, 
will  be  placed  in  safe  hands.  My  dear  sir,  make  yourself  quite  easy  oa 
that  point — ^it  will  be  placed  in  my  hands." 

'*  Tou  are,  in  every  way,  Mr.  Gilmore,  much  fitter  to  advise  and  to  act 
in  the  matter  than  I  am.  Is  it  an  indiscretion,  on  my  part^  to  ask  if  you 
have  decided  yet  on  a  course  of  proceeding  T 

**  So  far  as  it  is  possible  to  decide,  Mr.  Hartright,  I  have  decided.  I 
mean  to  send  a  copy  of  the  letter,  accompanied  by  a  statement  of  the  cir- 
cumstances, to  Sir  Fercival  Glyde*s  solicitor  in  London,  with  whom  I  have 
some  acquaintance.  The  letter  itself,  I  shall  keep  here,  to  show  to  Sir 
Fercival  as  soon  as  he  arrives.  The  tracing  of  the  two  women,  I  have 
already  provided  for,  by  sending  one  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  servants — a  con- 
fidential person — to  the  station  to  make  inquiries :  the  man  has  his  money 
and  his  directions,  and  he  will  follow  the  women  in  the  event  of  his  finding 
any  clue.  This  is  all  that  can  be  done  until  Sir  Fercival  comes  on 
Monday.  I  have  no  doubt  myself  that  every  explanation  which  can  be 
expected  from  a  gentleman  and  a  man  of  honour,  he  will  readily  give.  Sir 
Fercival  stands  very  high,  sir — an  eminent  position,  a  reputation  above 
suspicion — I  feel  quite  easy  about  results ;  quite  easy,  I  am  rejoiced  to 
assure  you.  Things  of  this  sort  happen  constantly  in  my  experience* 
Anonymous  letters — unfortunate  woman — sad  state  of  society.  I  don't 
deny  that  there  are  peculiar  complications  in  this  case ;  but  the  case  itself 
is,  most  unhappily,  common — common." 

*'  I  am  afraid,  Mr.  Gilmore,  I  have  the  misfortune  to  differ  from  you  in 
the  view  I  take  of  the  case." 

*'  Just  so,  my  dear  sir — just  so.  I  am  an  old  man ;  and  I  take  the 
practical  view.  You  are  a  young  man ;  and  you  take  the  romantic  view. 
Let  us  not  dispute  about  our  views.  I  live,  professionally,  in  an  atmo- 
sphere of  disputation,  Mr.  Hartright ;  and  I  am  only  too  glad  to  escape 
from  it,  as  I  am  escaping  here.  We  will  wait  for  events — yes,  yes,  yes ; 
we  will  wait  for  events.  Ohajming  place,  this.  Good  shooting  ?  Pro- 
bably not — ^none  of  Mr.  Fairlie*s  land  is  preserved,  I  think.  Charming 
place,  though ;  and  delightful  people.  You  draw  and  paint,  I  hear,  Mr. 
Hartright  ?    Enviable  accomplishment.     What  style  ?** 

We  dropped  into  general  conversation— or,  rather,  Mr.  Gilniore  talked, 
and  I  listened.  My  attention  was  £ar  from  him,  and  from  the  topics  on 
which  he  discoursed  so  fluently.  The  solitary  walk  of  the  last  two  hours 
had  wrought  its  effect  on  me — it  had  set  the  idea  in  my  mind  of  hastening 
my  departure  from  Limmeridge  House.  Why  should  I  prolong  the  hard 
trial  of  sajdng  farewell  by  one  unnecessary  minute  ?  What  further  service 
was  required  of  me  by  any  one  ?  There  was  no  useful  purpose  to  be  served 
by  my  stay  in  Cumberland ;  tl^^re  w{is  no  restriction  of  time  iji  th(^  |)er* 


TUfi  WOMAN  VA    WHITE*  89 

ffiissiim  to  leave  wbich  my  employer  had  granted  to  me.  Why  not  end  it,' 
there  and  then  ? 

I  determined  to  end  it.  There  were  some  hoars  of  daylight  still  left— 
there  was  no  reason  why  my  jonmey  back  to  London  should  not  begin  oc 
that  afternoon.  I  made  the  first  civil  excuse  that  occurred  to  me  ibi 
leaving  Mr.  Gilmore ;  and  returned  at  once  to  the  house. 

On  my  way  np  to  my  own  room,  I  met  Miss  Halcombe  on  the  stairs. 
She  saw,  by  the  hnrry  of  my  movements  and  the  change  in  my  manner, 
that  I  had  some  new  purpose  in  view ;  and  asked  what  had  happened. 

I  told  her  the  reasons  which  induced  me  to  think  of  hastening  my 
departure,  exactly  as  I  have  told  them  here. 

"No,  no,"  she  said,  earnestly  and  kindly,  "leave  us  like  a  friend ;  break 
bread  with  us  once  more.  Stay  here  and  dine ;  stay  here  and  help  us  to 
spend  our  last  evening  with  you  as  happily,  as  like  our  first  evenings,  as 
we  can.  It  is  my  invitation ;  Mrs*  Vese/s  invitation-r— -"  she  hesitated 
a  little,  and  then  added,  **  Laura's  invitation  as  well." 

I  promised  to  remain.  God  knows  I  had  no  wish  to  leave  even  the 
shadow  of  a  sorrowful  impression  with  any  one  of  them. 

My  own  room  was  the  best  place  for  me  till  the  dinner  bell  rang.  I 
waited  there  till  it  was  time  to  go  down  stairs. 

I  had  not  spoken  to  Miss  Fairlie — I  had  not  even  seen  her — ^all  that 
day.  The  first  meeting  with  her,  when  I  entered  the  drawing-room,  was  a 
hard  trial  to  her  self-control  and  to  mine.  She,  too,  had  done  her  best  to 
make  our  last  evening  renew  the  golden  bygone  time — ^the  time  that  could 
never  come  again.  She  had  put  on  the  dress  which  I  used  to  admire  more 
than  any  other  that  she  possessed — a  dark  blue  silk,  trimmed  quaintly  and 
prettily  with  old-fashioned  lace ;  she  came  forward  to  meet  me  with  her 
former  readiness ;  she  gave  me  her  hand  with  the  frank,  innocent  good  will 
of  happier  days.  The  cold  fingers  that  trembled  round  mine ;  the  pale 
cheeks  with  a  bright  red  spot  burning  in  the  midst  of  them ;  the  faint 
smile  that  struggled  to  live  on  her  lips  and  died  away  from  them  while  I 
looked  at  it,  told  me  at  what  sacrifice  of  herself  her  outward  composure  was 
maintained.  My  heart  could  take  her  no  closer  to  me,  or  I  should  have 
loved  her  then  as  I  bad  never  loved  her  yet. 

Mr.  Gilmore  was  a  great  assistance  to  us.  He  was  in  high  good  humoiu', 
and  he  led  the  conversation  with  unflagging  spirit.  Miss  Halcombe 
seoonded  him  resolutely ;  and  I  did  all  I  could  to  follow  her  example. 
The  kind  blue  eyes  whose  slightest  changes  of  expression  I  had  learnt  to 
interpret  so  well,  looked  at  me  appealingly  when  we  first  i^t  down  to  table. 
Help  my  sister — the  sweet  anxious  face  seemed  to  say— help  my  sister  and 
you  will  hdp  7»c. 

yfe  got  through  the  dinner,  to  all  outward  appearance  at  least,  happily 
enough.     When  the  ladies)  ^^^d  risen  from    iable^  and  Mr.  Gilmoie  and  1 


90  TH£  WOMAN  IN   WHIXE, 

ware  left  abtie  in  the  dining-room,  o  new  interest  pTes^^ted  itself  to 
occupy  our  attention,  and  to  give  me  an  opportunity  of  quieting  myself  by 
a  few  minutes  of  needful  and  welcome  silence.  T\ia  servant  who  had  been 
desjiatched  to  trace  Anne  Cathenck  and  Mrs.  Cl^mentSy  returned  with,  hia 
report,  and  was  shown  into  the  dining-room  immediately. 

"  Well,"  said  Mr.  Gilmore,  "  what  have  you  found  out  ?" 

"  I  have  found  out,  sir,"  answered  the  man,  "  that,  both  the  women  took 
tickets,  at  our  station  here,  for  Carlisle." 

'*  You  went  to  Carlisle,  of  course,  when  you  heard  that  ?" 

"  I  did,  sir ;  but  I  am  sorry  to  say  I  oouid  find  no  farther  trace  of  them." 

"  You  inquired  at  the  railway  ?" 

"Yes,  sir." 

*<  And  at  the  different  inns?'* 

"Yes,  sir." 

<*  And  you  left  the  statement  I  wrote  &r  yon,  at  the  police  station?^' 

« I  did,  sir." 

'*  Well,  my  friend,  you  have  done  all  yon  could^  and  I  have  done  all  I 
could;  and  there  .the  matter  must  rest  till  further  notice.  We  have 
played  our  trump  cards,  ^Mr.  Hartright,''  continued  the  old  gentleman, 
when  the  servant  had  withdrawn.  "  For  the  present,  at  least,  the  Women 
have  out-manceuvred  us ;  and  our  only  resource,  now,  is  to  wait  till  Bir 
Ferdval  Glyde  comes  here  on  M(xiday  next.  Won't  you  fill  yout  glass 
again?  Good  bottle  of  port,  that—rsound,  substantial,  old  wine.  I  haYe 
got  better  in  my  own  cellar,  though." 

We  returned  to  the.  drawing^room^^the  room  in  which  the  happiest 
evenings  of  my  life  had  been  passed ;  the  room  which,  after  this  last  night, 
I  was  never  to  see  again.  Its  aspect  was  altered  since  the  days  had 
shortened  and  the  weather  had  grown  cold.  The  glass  doors  on  the  terraos 
side  were  closed,  and  hidden  by  thidL  curtains.  Instead  of  the  sofk 
twilight  obscurity,  in  which  we  used  to  sit,  the  bright  radiant  glow  ol 
lampUght  now  dazzled  my  eyes.  All  was  changed— in-dooia  and  out^  all 
was  changed.       • 

Miss  Haloombe  and  Mr.  Gilmore  sat  down  together  at  tiie  card*table ; 
Mrs.  Yesey  took  her  customary  chair.  There  was  no  restraint  on  the 
disposal  of  their  evening ;  and  I  felt  ^e  restmint  on  the  disposal  of.  mine 
all  the  more  painfully  from  observing  it.  I  saw  Miss  Fairlie  lingering 
near  the  music  stand.  The  time  had  been  when: I  might  have  joined,  her 
there.  I  waited  irresolutely- — I  knew  neither  where  to  go  nor  what  to  do 
next.  She  cast  one  quick  glance  at  me,  took  a  piece  of  music  suddenly 
from  the  stand,  and  oame  towards  me  of  her  own  accord. 

"  Shall  I  play  some  of  those  Httle  melodies  of  Mozart's,  which  yon  used 
to  like  so  much  ?"  she  asked,  opening  the'  music  nervously,  and  looking 
down  at  it  while  she  spoke. 


TUB  WOMAN  IN   WHIT&  »1 

B^oTB  I  oonld  jpiank  her,  sixe  Imstened  to  the  piano.  The  chair  near  it, 
whieh  I  had.alw£^ys  been  aoeiiatopied  toooeupy^  stood  empty.  She  struck 
a  few  chorda — then  glanced,  rpimd  at  me^-4hen  ioolced  lack  again  at  her 
mosiq. 

"  WQn't  you  take  ycmr  old  place?"  she  said,  speaking  very  abrtiptlyy  and 
in  very  low  tones.-  . 

"  I  may  take  it  on  the  last  night,"  I  answered.  . 

She  did  not  reply ;  she  kept  her  attention  rLveted  on  the  musio— mns&c 
which  she  knew  by  memory,  which  she  had  played  over  and  over  again,  in 
former  times,  without  the  book.  I  only  knew  that  she  had  heard  me,  I 
ojoly  knew  that  she  was  aware  of  my  being  dose  to  her,  by  seeing  the  red 
spot  on  the  cheek  that  was  nearest  to  me,  £ade  out,  and  the  face  grow  pale 
all  over. 

'*  I  am  very  sorry  you  are  going,'*  she  said,  her  voice  almost  sinking  to  a 
whisper ;  her  eyes  lookiag  more  and  more  intentiy  at  the  music ;  her  fin* 
gers  flying  over  the  keys  of  the  piano  with  a  strange  feverish  energy  which 
1  had  never  noticed  in  her  before. 

'^I  shall  remember  those  kind  words,  Miss  Eairlie,  long  after  to*morro\v 
has  come  and  gone.* 

The  paleness  grew  whiter  on  her  face,  and  she  turned  it  farflier  away 
from  me. 

**  Don't  speak  of  to-morrow,"  she  said. .  "  Let  the  musici^)eak  to  us  of 
to-night,  in  a  happier  language  than  ours." 

Her  lips  trembled—^  faint  sigh  fluttered  from  them,  which  she  tried 
vainly  to  suppress.  .  Her  fingers  wavered  on  the  piano ;  she  struck  a  &lse 
note ;  confused  herself  in  trying  to  set  it  right ;  and  dropped  her  hands  angrily 
on  her  lap.  Miss  Halcombo  and  Mr.  Gilmore  looked  up  in  astonishment 
from  the  card-table  at  which  they  were  playing.  Even  Mrs.  Vesey,  dozing 
in  her  chair,  woke  at  the  sadden  cessation  of  the  music^  and  inquired  what 
had  happened. 

"You  play  at  whist,  Mr.  flartright?"  asked  Miss  Halcombe,  with  her 
eyes  directed  significantly  at  the  place  I  occupied.         ;  t 

I  knew  what  she  meant ;  I  knew  she- was  right ;  and  I  rose  at  once  to 
go  to  the  card-table.  As  I  left  the  piano.  Miss  Fairiie  turned  a  page  of  the 
music,  and  touched  the  keys  again  with  a  surer  hand« 

**  I  tinU  play  it,"  she  said,  striking  the  notes  almost  passionately.  **  I 
wiU  play  it  on  the  last  night." 

"  Come,  Mrs.  Vesey,"  said  Miss  Halcombe ;  **  Mr.  Gilmore  and  I  are 
tired  of  ^carti^— ^<5ome  and  be  Mr.  Hartright's  partner  at  whist." 

The  old  lawyer  smiled  .satirically.  His  had  been  the  winning  hand ;  and 
ho  bad  just  turned  up  a  king.  He  evidently  attributed  Miss  Halcombe'0 
abrupt  change  in  the  card-table  arrangements  to  a  lady's  inability  to  play 
the  losing  game. 


92  THE   WOMAN   JS    WHITK 

The  rest  of  the  evening  passed  without  a  iivord  or  a  look  from  her.  Sho 
kept  her  place  at  the  piano ;  and  I  kept  mine  at  the  card-tahle.  She 
played  unintermittingly — ^played  as  if  the  music  was  her  only  refuge  from 
herself.  Sometimes,  her  fingers  touched  the  notes  with  a  lingering  fond- 
ness, a  soft,  plaintiye,  dying  tenderness,  unutterahly  beautiful  and  mourn- 
ful  to  hear — sometimes,  they  faltered  and  failed  her,  or  hurried  over  the 
instrument  mechanically,  as  if  their  task  was  a  burden  to  them.  But  still, 
change  and  waver  as  they  might  in  the  expression  they  imparted  to  the 
music,  their  resolution  to  play  never  faltered.  She  only  rose  from  the 
piano  when  we  all  rose  to  say  good  night. 

Mrs.  Yesey  was  the  nearest'  to  the  door,  and  the  first  to  shake  hands 
with  me. 

"  I  shall  not  see  you  again,  Mr.  Hartright,"  said  the  old  lady.  "  I  ara 
Cruly  sorry  you  are  going  away.  You  have  been  very  kind  and  attentive  ; 
and  an  old  woman,  like  me,  feels  kindness  and  attention.  I  wish  you 
happy,  sir — I  wish  you  a  kind  good-by.'* 

Mr.  Gilmore  came  next. 

"  I  hope  we  shall  have  a  future  opportunity  of  bettering  our  acquaint- 
ance, Mr.  Hartright.  Ton  quite  understand  about  that  little  matter  of 
business  being  safe  in  my  hands  ?  Yes,  yes,  of  course.  Bless  me,  how 
cold  it  is !  Don't  let  me  keep  you  at  the  door.  Bon  voyage,  my  dear  sir 
— ^bon  vogage,  as  the  French  say," 

Miss  Halcombe  followed. 

"  £[alf-past  seven  to-morrow  morning,*'  she  said ;  then  added,  in  a 
whisper,  **  I  have  heard  and  seen  more  than  you  think.  Your  conduct  to- 
night has  made  me  your  friend  for  lifp." 

Miss  Fairlie  came  last.  I  could  iiot  trust  myself  to  look  at  her,  when  I 
took  her  hand,  and  when  I  thought  of  the  next  morning. 

"  My  departure  must  be  a  v^ry  early  one,"  I  said.  "  I  shall  be  gone. 
Miss  Fairlie,  before  you " 

**  No,  no,"  she  interposed,  hastily ;  **  not  before  I  am  out  of  my  room.  I 
Bhall  be  down  to  breakfast  with  Marian.  I  am  not  so  ungrateful,  not  so 
forgetful  of  the  past  three  months ^ 

Her  voice  failed  her ;  her  hand  closed  gently  round  mine— then  dropped 
it  suddenly.    Before  I  could  say,  **  Good  night,"  she  was  gone. 

The  end  comes  fast  to  meet  me — comes  inevitably,  as  the  light  of  the 
last  morning  came  at  Limmeridge  House. 

It  was  barely  half-past  seven  when  I  went  down  stairs — ^but  I  found 
them  both  at  the  breakfast-table  waiting  for  me.  In  the  chill  air,  in  the 
dim  light,  in  the  gloomy  morning  silence  of  the  house,  we  three  sat  down 
together,  and  tried  to  eat,  tried  to  talk.  The  struggle  to  preserve  appear* 
aDCfis  was  hopeless  and  useless ;  and  I  rose  to  end  it. 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  93 

As  I  held  out  my  hand,  as  Miss  Halcombe,  who  was  nearest  to  me,  look 
it,  Miss  Fairlie  turned  away  suddenly,  and  hurried  from  the  room. 

"  Better  so,'*  said  Miss  Haloombe,  when  the  door  had  closed — **  better 
w,  for  you  and  for  her." 

I  waited  a  moment  before  I  could  speak — it  was  hard  to  lose  her,  with- 
out  a  parting  word,  or  a  parting  look.  I  controlled  myself;  I  tried  to  take 
leare  of  Miss  Halcombe  in  fitting  terms ;  but  all  the  farewell  words  I 
wonld  fain  have  spoken,  dwindled  to  one  sentence. 

**Have  I  deserved  that  you  should  write  to  me?"  was  all  I  could  say. 

"  You  have  nobly  deserved  everything  that  I  can  do  for  you,  as  long  as 
we  both  live.    Wluitever  the  end  is,  you  shall  know  it.** 

"  And  if  I  can  ever  be  of  help  again,  at  any  future  time,  long  after  the 
memory  of  my  pi-esumption  and  my  folly  is  forgotten ** 

I  could  add  no  more.  My  voice  faltered,  my  eyes  moistened,  in  spite  of 
me. 

She  caught  me  by  both  hands — ^she  pressed  them  with  the  strong,  steady 
grasp  of  a  man — ^her  dark  eyes  glittered — ^her  brown  complexion  flushed 
deep— the  force  and  energy  of  her  face  glowed  and  grew  beautiful  with  the 
pure  inner  light  of  her  generosity  and  her  pity. 

"  I  will  trust  you — ^if  ever  the  time  comes,  I  will  trust  you  as  my  friend 
and  her  friend ;  as  my  brother  and  ?ier  brother."  She  stopped ;  drew  me 
nearer  to  her — the  fearless,  noble  creature — ^touched  my  forehead,  sister- 
like, with  her  Ups ;  and  called  me  by  my  Christian  name.  "  God  bless 
you,  Walter !"  she  said.  "  Wait  here  alone,  and  compose  yourself — ^I  had 
better  not  stay  for  both  our  sakes ;  I  had  better  see  you  go  from  the  bal- 
cony upstairs." 

She  left  the  room.  I  turned  away  towards  the  window,  where  nothing 
faced  me  but  the  lonely  autumn  landscape — ^I  turned  away  to  master  my- 
self, before  I,  too,  left  the  room  in  my  turn,  and  left  it  for  ever, 

A  minute  passed — ^it  could  hardly  have  been  more — when  I  heard  the 
door  open  again  softly ;  and  the  rustling  of  a  woman's  dress  on  the  carpet, 
moved  towards  me.  My  heart  beat  violently  as  I  turned  round.  Miss 
Fairlie  was  approaching  me  from  the  farther  end  of  the  room. 

She  stopped  and  hesitated,  when  our  eyes  met,  and  when  she  saw  that 
we  were  alone.  Then,^ith  that  courage  which  women  lose  so  often  in  the 
small  emergency,  and  so  seldom  in  the  great,  she  came  on  nearer  to  me, 
strangely  pale  and  strangely  quiet,  drawing  one  hand  after  her  along  the 
table  by  which  she  walked,  and  holding  something  at  her  side,  in  the 
other,  which  was  hidden  by  the  folds  of  her  dress. 

"  I  only  went  into  the  drawing-room,"  she  said,  "  to  look  for  this.  It 
may  remind  you  of  your  visit  here,  and  of  the  friends  you  leave  behind 
you.  You  told  me  I  had  improved  very  much  when  I  did  it — and  I 
tliought  you  might  like—  -  " 


94  THB  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

She  tamed  her  head  away,  arid  offered  me  a  little  sketch  drawn  throngh- 
out  by  hpT  own  pencil,  of  the  Bummer-house  in  which  we  had  firat  met 
The  paper  trembled  in  her  hand  as  she  held  it  out  to  me — ^trembled  in 
mine,  as  I  took  it  from  her. 

I  was  afraid  to  say  what  I  felt— I  only  answered :  "  It  shall  never  leave 
me ;  all  my  life  long  it  shall  be  the  treasure  that  I  prize  most.  I  am  very 
grateful  fw  it — very  grateful  to  you,  for  not  letting  me  go  away  without 
bidding  you  good-by." 

*f  Oh  !**  she  said,  innocently,  "  how  could  I  let  you  go,  after  we  have 
passed  so  many  happy  days  together  1'* 

"  Those  days  may  never  return.  Miss  FairMe — ^my  way  of  life  and  yours 
are  very  far  apart.  But  if  a  time  should  come,  when  the  devotion  of  my 
whole  heart  and  soul  and  strength  will  give  you  a  moment's  happiness,  oi 
spare  you  a  moment's  sorrow^  will  you  try  to  remember  the  poor  drawing- 
master  Who  has  taught  you  ?  Miss  Halcombe  has  promised  to  trust  me — 
will  you  promise,  too?'* 

The  farewell  sadness  in  the  kind  blue  eyes  shone  dimly  through  her 
gatherii^  tears.    , 

"  I  promise  it,"  she  said,  in  broken  tones.  "  Oh,  don't  look  at  me  like 
that!    I  promise  it  with  all  my  heart'* 

I  ventured  a  little  nearer  to  her,  and  held  Out  my  hand. 
.    "You  have  many  friends  who  love  you,'  Miss  Fairlie.    Your  happy 
fntore  is  the  dear  object  of  many  hopes.    May  I  say,  at  parting,  that  it  is 
the  dear  object  of  my  hopes  too  ?" 

The  tears  flowed  fast  down  her  cheeks.  She  rested  one  trembling  hand 
on  the  table  to  steady  herself,  while  she  gave  me  the  other.  I  took  it  in 
mine — I  held  it  fast.  My  head  drooped  over  it,  my  tears  fell  on  it,  my 
lips  pressed  it — ^not  in  love ;  oh,  not  in  love,  at  that  last  moment,  but  in 
the  agony  and  the  self-abandonment  of  despair. 

"  For  God's  sake,  leave  me!"  she  said  faintly. 

The  confession  of  her  heart's  secret  burst  from  her  in  those  pleading 
words.  .  I  had  no  right  to  hear  them,  no  right  to  answer  them :  they  were 
the  words  that  banished  me,  in  the  name  of  her  sacred  weakness,  from  the 
room.  It  was  all  over.  I  dropped  her  hand ;  I  said  no  more.  The  blind- 
ing tears  shut  her  out  from  my  eyes,  and  I  dashed  them  away  to  look  at 
her  for  the  last  time.  One  look  as  she  sank  into  a  chair,  as  her  arms  fell 
on  the  table,  as  her  fair  head  dropped  on  them  wearily.  One  farewell 
look ;  and  the  door  had  closed  upon  her-*-the  great  gulf  of  separation  had 
opened  between  us — the  image  of  Laura  Fairlie  was  a  memory  of  the  piuC 
already. 

27^  End  cf  Bartrighfs  ^arrcUive. 


«••• 


•  I 


THE  WOHAK  IN  WHITE.  95 


Tke  8kfty  continued  hy  Viijcekt  Giluork,  of  Cfumeery  Lane^  Sdieitcr, 

I. 
1  WRITE  these  lines  at  the  request  of  my  friend,  Mr.  Walter  Hartright. 
ITiey  are  intended  to  convey  a  description  of  certain  events  which  seriously 
affected  Miss  Fairlie's  interests,  and  which  took  place  after  the  period  of 
Mr.  Hartright's  departure  from  Limmeridge  House. 

There  is  no  need  for  me  to  say  whether  my  own  opinion  does  or  does  not 
sanction  the  disclosure  of  the  remarkable  family  story,  of  which  my  narra- 
tive forms  an  impor^t  component  part.  Mr.  Hartright  has  taken  that 
responsibility  on  himself;  and  drcumstances  yet  to  be  related  will  show 
that  he  has  amply  earned  the  right  to  do  so,  if  he  chooses  to  exercise  it. 
The  plan  he.  has  adlc^ted  for  presenting  the  story  to  others,  in  the  most 
tmthful  and  most  vivid  manner,  requires  that  it  should  be  told,  at  each 
successive  stage  in  the  march  of  events,  by  the  persons  who  were  directly 
ooncemed  in  those  events  at  the  time  of  their  occurrence.  My  appearance 
here,  as  narrator,  is  the  necessary  consequence  of  this  arrangement.  I  was 
present  during  the  sojourn  of  Sir  Percival  Glyde  in  Cumberland,  and  was 
personally  concerned  in  one  important  result  of  his  short  residence  under 
Mr.  Fairlie's  roof.  It  is  my  duty,  therefore,  to  add  these  new  links  to  the 
chain  of  events,  and  to  take  up  the  chain  itself  at  the  point  where,  for  the 
present  only,  Mr.  Hartright  has  droj^d  it. 

I  arrived  at  Limmeridge  House,  on  Friday  the  second  of  November. 

My  object  was  to  remain  at  Mr.  Fairlie's  until  the  arrival  of  Sir  Percival 
Glyde.  If  that  event  led  to  the  appointment  of  any  given  day  for  Sir  Per- 
cival's  union  with  Miss  Fairlie,  I  was  to  take  the  necessary  instructions 
back  with  me  to  London,  and  to  occupy  myself  in  drawing  the  lady's 
marriage-settlement. 

On  the  Friday  I  was  not  favoured  by  Mr.  Fairlie.  with  an  interview. 
He  had  been,  or  had  £&ncied  himself  to  be,  an  invalid  for  years  past ;  and 
he  was  not  well  enough  to  receive  me.  Miss  Halcombe  was  the  first  mem- 
ber of  the  family  whom  I  saw.  She  met  me  at  the  house  door  ;  and  intro- 
duced me  to  Mr.  Hartright,  who  had  been  staying  at  Limmeridge  for  some 
time  past. 

I  did  not  see  Miss  Fairlie  until  later  in  the  day,  at.  dinner  time.  She 
was  not  looking  well,  and  I  was^  sorry  to  observe  it.  She  is  a  sweet 
lovable  girl,  as  amiable  and  attentive  to  every,  pne  about  her  as  her  excel- 
lent mother  used  to  be— though,  personally  speaking,  she  takes  after  her 
father.  Mrs.  Fairlie  had  tiark  eyes  and  hair ;  and  her  elder  daughter.  Miss 
Halcombe,  strongly  reminds  .me  of  hor.  Miss  Fairlie  played  to  us  in  the 
evening— not  so  weU  as  usual,  I  thought.    We  had  a  rubber  at  whist ;  a 


96  THE  WOHAN  IS    WHITE. 

mere  profanation,  so  far  as  play  was  concerned,  of  that  noble  game.  1  had 
been  favourably  impressed  by  Mr.  Hartrigbt,  on  our  first  introduction  to 
one  another ;  but  I  soon  discovered  that  he  was  not  free  from  the  social 
failings  incidental  to  his  age.  There  are  three  things  that  none  of  the 
young  men  of  the  present  generation  can  do.  They  can't  sit  over  their 
wine ;  they  can't  play  at  whist ;  and  they  can't  pay  a  lady  a  compliment. 
Mr.  Hartrigbt  was  no  exception  to  the  general  rule.  Otherwise,  even  in 
those  early  days  and  on  that  short  acquaintance,  he  struck  me  as  being  a 
modest  and  gentlemanlike  young  man. 

So  the  Friday  passed.  I  say  nothing  about  the  more  serious  matters 
which  engaged  my  attention  on  that  day — the  anonymous  letter  to  Miss 
Fairlie ;  the  measures  I  thought  it  right  to  adopt  when  the  matter  was 
mentioned  to  me;  and  the  conviction  I  entertained  that  every  possible 
explanation  of  the  circumstances  would  be  readily  afforded  by  Sir  Percival 
Glyde,  having  all  been  fully  noticed,  as  I  understand,  in  the  narrative 
which  precedes  this. 

On  the  Saturday,  Mr.  Hartrigbt  had  left  before  I  got  down  to  breakfast. 
Miss  Fairlie  kept  her  room  all  day ;  and  Miss  Halcombe  appeared  to  me 
to  be  out  of  spirits.  The  house  was  not  what  it  used  to  be  in  the  time  of 
Mr.  and  Mrs.  Philip  Fairlie.  I  took  a  walk  by  myself  in  the  forenoon : 
and  looked  about  at  some  of  the  places  which  I  first  saw  when  I  was 
staying  at  Limmeridge  to  transact  family  business,  more  than  thirty  yeaiB 
since.    They  were  not  what  they  used  to  be  either. 

At  two  o'clock  Mr.  Fairlie  sent  to  say  he  was  well  enough  to  see  me. 
lie  had  not  altered,  at  apy  rate,  since  I  first  knew  him.  His  talk  was  to 
the  same  purpose  as  usual — all  about  himself  and  his  ailments,  his  wonder- 
ful coins,  and  hi^matchless  Rembrandt  etchings.  The  moment  I  tried  tc 
speak  of  the  business  that  had  brought  me  to  his  house,  he  shut  his  eyes 
and  said  I  "upset"  him.  I  persisted  in  upsetting  him  by  returning  again 
and  again  to  the  subject.  All  I  could  ascertain  was  that  he  looked  on  bis 
niece's  marriage  as  a  settled  thing,  that  her  father  had  sanctioned  it,  that 
he  sanctioned  it  himself,  that  it  was  a  desirable  marriage,  and  that  he 
should  be  personally  rejoiced  when  the  worry  of  it  was  over.  As  to  the 
settlements,  if  I  would  consult  his  niece,  and  afterwai-ds  dive  as  deeply  aa 
T  pleased  into  my  own  knowledge  of  the  family  affairs,  and  get  everything 
ready,  and  limit  his  share  in  the  business,  as  guardian,  to  saying.  Yes,  at 
tho  right  moment — ^why  of  course  he  would  meet  my  views,  and  everybody 
else's  views,  with  infinite  pleasing.  In  the  mean  time,  there  I  saw  him,  a 
Helpless  sufferer,  confined  to  his  room.  Did  I  think  he  looked  as  if  he 
wanted  teasing  ?    No.     Then  why  tease  him  ? 

I  might,  perhaps,  have  been  a  little  astonished  at  this  extraordinary 
absence  of  all  self-assertion  on  Mr.  Fairlie's  part,  in  the  character  of  guardian, 
if  my  knowledge  of  the  family  afGurs  bad  not  been  sufiScient  to  remind  Uiie 


THE   WOMAN   IN    WHITE.  97 

that  he  was  a  single  man,  and  that  lie  had  nothing  more  than  a  life-interest 
in  the  Limmeridge  property.  As  matters  stood,  therefore,  I  was  neither 
suiprised  nor  disappointed  at  the  result  of  the  interview.  Mr.  Fairlie  had 
simply  justified  my  expectations — ^and  there  was  an  end  of  it. 

Sunday  was  a  dull  day,  out  of  doors  and  in.  A  letter  arrived  for  mo 
from  Sir  Percival  Glyde's  solicitor,  acknowledging  the  receipt  of  my  copy 
of  the  anonymous  letter,  and  my  accompanying  statement  of  the  case. 
Mis^  Fairlie  joined  us  in  the  afternoon,  looking  pale  and  depressed,  and 
altogether  unlike  herself.  I  had  some  talk  witii  her,  and  ventured  on  a 
delicate  allusion  to  Sir  Percival.  She  listened,  and  said  nothing.  All 
other  subjects  she  pursued  willingly ;  but  this  subject  she  allowed  to  drop. 
I  hegan  to  doubt  whether  she  might  not  be  repenting  of  her  engagement--- 
just  as  young  ladies  often  do,  when  repentance  comes  too  late. 

On  Monday  Sir  Percival  Glyde  arrived. 

I  found  him  to  be  a  most  prepossessing  man,  so  far  as  manners  and 
appearance  were  concerned.  He  looked  rather  older  than  I  had  expected  ; 
his  head  being  bald  over  the  forehead,  and  his  face  somewhat  marked  and 
worn.  But  his  movements  were  as  active  and  his  spirits  as  high  as  a 
yonng  man's.  His  meeting  with  Miss  Haloombe  was  delightfully  hearty 
and  unaffected ;  and  his  reception  of  me,  upon  my  being  presented  to  him, 
was  so  easy  and  pleasant  that  we  got  on  together  like  old  friends.  Miss 
Fairlie  was  not  vdth  us  when  he  arrived,  but  she  entered  the  room  about 
ten  minutes  afterwards.  Sir  Percival  rose  and  paid  his  compliments  with 
perfect  grace.  His  evident  concern  on  seeing  the  change  for  the  worse  in 
the  young  lady's  looks  was  expressed  with  a  mixture  of  tenderness  and 
respect,  with  an  unassuming  delicacy  of  tone,  voice,  and  manner,  which 
did  equal  credit  to  his  good  breeding  and  his  good  sense.  I  was  rather 
surprised,  under  these  circumstances,  to  see  that  Miss  Fairlie  continued  to 
be  constrained  and  uneasy  in  his  presence,  and  that  she  took  the  first 
opportunity  of  leaving  the  room  again.  Sir  Percival  neither  noticed  the 
restraint  in  her  reception  of  him,  nor  her  sudden  withdrawal  from  our 
society.  He  had  not  obtruded  his  attentions  on  her  while  she  was  present, 
and  he  did  not  embarrass  Miss  Halcombc  by  any  allusion  to  her  departure 
when  she  was  gone.  His  tact  and  taste  were  never  at  fault  on  this  or  on 
any  other  occasion  while  I  was  in  his  company  at  Limmeridge  House. 

As  soon  as  Miss  Fairlie  had  left  the  room,  he  spared  us  all  embarrass- 
ment on  the  subject  of  the  anonymous  letter,  by  adverting  to  it  of  his  own 
accord.  He  had  stopped  in  London  on  his  way  from  Hampshire ;  had 
seen  his  solicitor;  had  read  the  documents  forwarded  by  me;  and  had 
travelled  on  to  Cumberland,  anxious  to  satisfy  our  minds  by  the  speediest 
and  the  fullest  explanation  that  words  could  convey.  On  hearing  him 
express  himself  to  this  effect,  I  offered  him  the  original  letter  which  I  had 
kept  foi  his  inspection.    He  thanked  me,  and  declined  to  look  at  it ;  sayijQg 


98  THE   WOMAN  IN  WHITE, 

that  he  had  seen  the  copy,  and  that  he  was  qnite  willing  to  leave  th« 
original  in  our  hands. 

The  statement  itself,  on  which  he  immediately  entered,  was  as  simple 
and  satisfactory  as  I  had  all  along  anticipated  it  would  be. 

Mrs.  Gatherick,  he  informed  us,  had,  in  past  years,  laid  him  under  some 
obligations  for  faithful  services  rendered  to  his  family  connexions  and  to 
himself.  She  had  been  doubly  unfortunate  in  being  married  to  a  husband 
who  had  deserted  her,  and  in  having  an  only  child  whose  mental  faculties 
had  been  in  a  disturbed  condition  from  a  very  early  age.  Although  her 
marriage  had  removed  her  to  a  part  of  Hampshire  far  distant  from  the 
neighbourhood  in  which  Sir  Percival's  property  was  situated,  he  had  taken 
care  not  to  lose  sight  of  her ;  his  friendl}'  feeling  towards  the  poor  woman, 
in  consideration  of  her  past  services,  having  been  greatly  strengthened  by 
his  admiration  of  the  patience  and  courage  with  which  she  supported  her 
calamities.  In  course  of  time,  the  symptoms  of  mental  afiOiction  in  her 
unhappy  daughter  increased  to  such  a  serious  extent,  as  to  make  it  a  matter 
of  necessity  to  place  her  under  proper  medical  care.  Mrs.  Gatherick  herself 
recognised  this  necessity ;  but  she  also  felt  the  prejudice  common  to  persons 
occupying  her  respectable  station,  against  allowing  her  child  to  be  admitted, 
as  a  pauper,  into  a  public  Asylum.  Sir  Percival  had  respected  this  pre- 
judice, as  he  respected  honest  independence  of  feeling  in  any  rank  of  life ; 
and  had  resolved  to  mark  his  grateful  sense  of  Mrs.  Gatherick's  early 
attachment  to  the  interests  of  himself  and  his  family,  by  defraying  the 
expense  of  her  daughter's  maintenance  in  a  trustworthy  private  Asylum. 
To  her  mothers  regret,  and  to  his  own  regret,  the  unfortunate  creature  had 
discovered  the  share  which  circumstances  had  induced  him  to  take  in 
placing  her  under  restraint,  and  had  conceived  the  most  intense  hatred 
and  distrust  of  him  in  consequence.  To  that  hatred  and  distrust — ^which 
had  expressed  itself  in  various  ways  in  the  Asylum — ^the  anonymous  letter, 
written  after  her  escape,  was  plainly  attributable.  If  Miss  Halcombe's  or 
Mr.  Gilniore's  recollection  of  the  document  did  not  confirm  that  view,  or  if 
they  wished  for  any  additional  particulars  about  the  Asylum  (the  address 
of  which  he  mentioned,  as  well  as  the  names  and  addresses  of  the  two 
doctors  on  whose  certificates  the  patient  was  admitted),  he  was  ready  to 
answer  any  question  and  to  clear  up  any  uncertainty.  He  had  done  his 
duty  to  the  unhappy  young  woman,  by  instructing  his  solicitor  to  spare  no 
expense  in  tracing  her,  and  in  restoring  her  once  more- to  medical  care ;  and 
he  was  now  only  anxious  to  do  his  duty  towards  Miss  Fairlie  and  towaids 
her  family,  in  the  same  plain,  straightforward  way. 

I  was  the  first  to  speak  in  answer  to  this  appeal.    My  own  course  was 
plain  to  me.    It  is  the  great  beauty  of  the  Law  that  it  can  dispute  any 
human  statement,  made  under  any  circumstances,  and  reduced  to  any  fonn 
If  I  had  felt  professionally  called  upon  to  set  up  a  case  against  Sir  Feroiv^ 


THB  WOMAK   IN  WHITE.  99 

Glyde^  on  the  sirei^h  of  his  own  aiphnation,  I  conld  have  done  so  beyond 
all  doubt.  But  my  duty  did  not  lie  in  this  direction :  my  function  was  of 
the  purely  judicial  kind.  I  was  to  weigh  the  explanation  we  had  just 
heard ;  to  allow  all  due  force  to  the  high  reputation  of  the  gentleman  who 
offered  it ;  and  to  decide  honestly  whether  the  probabilities,  on  Sir  Perciyal's 
own  showing,  were  plainly  with  him,  or  plainly  against  him.  My  own 
oonyiction  was  that  they  were  plainly  with  him ;  and  I  aooordin^y  de- 
claied  that  his  explanation  was,  to  my  mind,  unquestionably  a  satisfactory 
one. 

Miss  Haloombey  after  looking  at  me  very  earnestly,  said  a  few  words,  on 
her  side,  to  the  same  effect — with  a  certain  hesitation  of  manner,  however, 
which  itie  circumstances  did  not  seem  to  me  to  warrant.  I  am  unable  to 
say,  positively,  whether  Sir  Percival  noticed  this  or  not.  My  opinion  is 
that  he  did;  seeing  that  he  pointedly  resumed  the  subject^  although  he 
might,  now,  with  all  propriety,  have  allowed  it  to  drop. 

"  If  my  plain  statement  of  facts  had  only  been  addressed  to  Mr.  Gilmore," 
he  said,  ^  I  should  consider  any  further  reference  to  this  unhappy  matter 
as  uimeoessary.  I  may  fiairly  expect  Mr.  Gilmore,  as  a  gentleman,  to 
believe  me  on  my  word ;  and  when  he  has  done  me  that  justice,  all 
discussion  of  the  subject  between  us  has  come  to  an  CLd.  But  my  position 
with  a  lady  is  not  the  same.  I  owe  to  her,  what  I  would  concede  to  no 
man  alive — a  proof  of  the  truth  of  my  assertion.  Tou  cannot  ask  for  that 
proof^  Miss  Halcombe ;  and  it  is  therefore  my  duty  to  you,  and  still  more 
to  Miss  Fairlie,  to  offer  it.  May  I  b^  that  you  will  write  at  once  to  the 
mother  of  this  imfortunate  woman — to  Mrs.  Gatherick — ^to  ask  for  her 
testimony  in  support  of  the  explanation  which  I  have  just  offered  to 
you." 

I  saw  Miss  Halcombe  change  colour,  and  look  a  little  imeasy.  Sir 
Percival's  su^estion,  politely  as  it  was  expressed,  appeared  to  her,  as  it 
appeared  to  me,  to  point,  very  delicately,  at  the  hesitation  which  her 
manner  had  betrayed  a  moment  or  two  since. 

*<I  hope.  Sir  Percival,  you  don't  do  me  the  injustice  to  suppose  that  I 
distrust  you,"  she  said,  quickly. 

**  Certainly  not,  Miss  Halcombe.  I  make  my  proposal  purely  as  ui  act 
of  attention  to  you.  Will  you  excuse  my  obstinacy  if  I  still  venture  to 
press  it?" 

He  walked  to  the  writing-table,  as  he  spoke;  drew  a  chair  to  it;  and 
opened  the  paper  case. 

"  Let  me  beg  you  to  write  the  note,"  he  said,  "  as  a  favour  to  me.  It 
need  not  occupy  you  more  than  a  few  minutes.  You  have  only  to  ask 
Mrs.  Gatherick  two  questions.  First,  if  her  daughter  was  placed  in  the 
Asylum  with  her  knowledge  and  approval.  Secondly,  if  the  share  I  took 
in  the  matter  was  such  as  to  merit  the  expression  of  her  gratitude  towards 


100  THE  WOMAN  m  WHITE. 

myself?  Mr.  Gilmore's  mind  is  at  ease  on  this  unpleasant  subject ;  and 
your  mind  is  at  ease — ^pray  set  my  mind  at  ease  also,  by  writing  the 
note." 

"  You  oblige  me  to  grant  your  request,  Sir  Percival,  when  I  would  much 
rather  refuse  it."  With  those  words  Miss  Halcombe  rose  firom  her  place, 
and  went  to  the  writing-table.  Sir  Percival  thanked  her,  handed  her  a 
pen,  and  then  walked  away  towards  the  fireplace.  Miss  Fairlie's  little 
Italian  greyhound  was  lying  on  the  rug.  He  held  out  his  hand,  and  called 
to  the  dog  good-humouredly. 

"  Come,  Nina,"  he  said ;  "  we  remember  each  other,  don't  we  ?" 

The  little  beast,  cowardly  and  cross-grained  as  pet-dogs  usually  are, 
looked  up  at  him  sharply,  shrank  away  from  his  outstretched  hand,  whined, 
shivered,  and  hid  itself  under  a  sofa.  It  was  scarcely  possible  that  he 
could  have  been  put  out  by  such  a  trifle  as  a  dog's  reception  of  him — ^but  1 
observed,  nevertheless,  that  he  walked  away  towards  the  window  very 
suddenly.  Perhaps  his  temper  is  irritable  at  times  ?  If  so,  I  can  sym- 
pathise with  him.    My  temper  is  irritable  at  times,  too. 

Miss  Halcombe  was  not  long  in  writing  the  note.  When  it  was  done, 
she  rose  from  the  writing-table,  and  handed  the  open  sheet  of  paper  to  Sir 
Percival.  He  bowed ;  took  it  from  her ;  folded  it  up  immediately,  without 
looking  at  the  contents  ;  sealed  it ;  wrote  the  address ;  and  handed  it  back 
to  her  in  silence.  I  never  saw  anything  more  graoefally  and  more  becom- 
ingly done,  in  my  life. 

**You  insist  on  my  posting  this  letter.  Sir  Percival?"  said  Miss 
Halcombe. 

"  I  beg  you  will  post  it,"  he  answered.  "  And  now  that  it  is  written 
and  sealed  up,  allow  me  to  ask  one  or  two  last  questions  about  the  unhappy 
woman  to  whom  it  refers.  I  have  read  the  communication  which  Mr. 
Gihnore  kindly  addressed  to  my  solicitor,  describing  the  circumstances 
under  which  the  writer  of  the  anonymous  letter  was  identified.  But  there 
are  certain  points  to  which  that  statement  does  not  refer.  Did  Anne 
Gatherick  see  Miss  Fairlie  ?" 

**  Certainly  not,"  replied  Miss  Halcombe. 

"  Did  she  see  you  ?" 

«*  No." 

"  She  saw  nobody  from  the  house,  then,  except  a  certain  Mr.  Hartright, 
who  accidentally  met  with  her  in  the  churchyard  here  ?" 

"  Nobody  else." 

**  Mr.  Hartright  was  employed  at  Limmeridge  as  a  drawing-master,  I 
believe  ?    Is  he  a  member  of  one  of  the  Water-Colour  Societies  ?" 

"  1  believe  he  is,"  answered  Miss  Haloombe. 

He  paused  for  a  moment,  as  if  he  wa^s  thinking  over  the  last  answer,  an<f 
then  added ; 


THK  WOMAH   iH    WHITE.  101 

"  Did  yon  find  ont  where  Anne  Catherick  was  living,  when  she  was  in 
cJiis  neighbonrhood  T* 
"  Yes.    At  a  farm  on  the  moor,  called  Todd*s  Comer." 
"It  is  a  dnly  we  all  owe  to  the  poor  creature  herself  to  trace  her,*'  con- 
tinued Sir  Percival.     "  She  may  have  said  something  at  Todd's  Comer 
vrhich  may  help  ns  to  find  her.    I  will  go  there,  and  make  inquiries  on  t^e 
chance.    In  the  mean  time,  as  I  cannot  prevail  on  myself  to  discuss  this 
pamfnl  subject  with  Miss  Fairlie,  may  I  beg,  Miss  Halcombe,  that  you  will 
kindly  undertake  to  give  her  the  necessary  explanation,  deferring  it  of  course 
nntil  you  have  received  the  reply  to  that  note.** 

Miss  Halcombe  promised  to  comply  with  his  request.  He  thanked  her 
—nodded  pleasantly — ^and  left  us,  to  go  and  establish  himself  in  his  own 
room.  As  he  opened  the  door,  the  cross-grained  greyhound  poked  out  her 
sharp  muzzle  from  under  the  sofa,  and  barked  and  snapped  at  him. 

"A  good  morning's  work.  Miss  Halcombe,"  I  said,  as  soon  as  we  were 
alone.    ''  Here  is  an  anxious  day  well  ended  already." 

''Yes,"  she  answered;  ''no  doubt.  I  am  very  glad  your  mind  is 
satisfied." 

"  My  mind  I  Surely,  with  that  note  in  your  hand,  your  mind  is  at 
ease  too?" 

**  Oh,  yes — ^how  can  it  be  otherwise  ?  I  know  the  thing  could  not  be,** 
she  went  on,  speaking  more  to  herself  than  to  me ;  **  but  I  almost  widi 
Walter  Hartright  had  stayed  here  long  enough  to  be  present  at  the  expla- 
nation, and  to  hear  the  proposal  to  me  to  write  this  note." 

I  was  a  little  surprised— perhaps  a  little  piqued,  also,  by  these  last 
words. 

''Events,  it  is  true,  connected  Mr.  Hartright  very  remarkably  with  the 
afiair  of  the  letter,'*  I  said ;  "  and  I  readily  admit  that  he  conducted  him- 
self, all  things  considered,  with  great  delicacy  and  discretion.  But  I  am 
quite  at  a  loss  to  understand  what  useful  influence  his  presence  could  have 
exercised  in  relation  to  the  effect  of  Sir  Percival's  statement  on  your  mind 
or  mine." 

"  It  was  only  a  fancy,"  she  said,  absently.  "  There  is  no  need  to  discuss 
it,  Mr.  Gilmore.    Your  experience  ought  to  be,  and  is,  the  best  guide  I  can 

desire." 

I  did  not  altogether  like  her  thrusting  the  whole  responsibility,  in  this 
marked  manner,  on  my  shoulders.  If  Mr.  Fairlie  had  done  it,  I  should  not 
have  been  surprised.  But  resolute,  clear-minded  Miss  Halcombe,  was  the 
very  last  person  in  the  world  whom  I  should  have  expected  to  find  shrink- 
ing from  the  expression  of  an  opinion  of  her  own. 

"If  any  doubts  still  trouble  you,"  I  said,  "why  not  mention  them  to 
me  at  once  ?  Tell  me  plainly,  have  you  any  reason  to  distrust  Sir  Percival 
Glyde?" 


102  TRB  WOMAN   IX  WHITE. 

"  None  whatever." 

«  Do  you  see  anything  improbable,  or  contradictory,  in  his  explanation  T 

^  How  can  I  say  I  do,  after  the  proof  he  has  offered  me  o^  the  truth  of 
it?  Can  there  be  better  testimony  in  his  favour,  Mr.  Gihnore,  than  the 
testimony  of  the  woman's  mother  ?" 

"  None  better.  If  the  answer  to  your  note  of  inquiry  proves  to  be  satis- 
factory, I,  for  one,  cannot  see  what  more  any  friend  of  Sir  FercivaVs  can 
possibly  expect  from  Irim." 

**  Then  we  will  post  the  note/'  she  said,  rising  to  leave  the  room,  **  and 
dismiss  all  further  reference  to  the  subject,  until  the  answer  arrives.  Don^ 
attach  any  weight  to  my  hesitation.  I  can  give  no  better  reason  for  it 
than  that  I  have  been  over-anxious  about  Laura  lately ;  and  anxiety,  Mr. 
Gilmore,  unsettles  the  strongest  of  us.** 

She  left  me  abruptly ;  her  naturally  firm  voice  faltering  as  she  spoke 
hose  last  words.  A  sensitive,  vehement,  passionate  nature—a  woman  of 
ten  thousand  in  these  trivial,  superficial  times.  I  had  known  her  from  her 
earliest  years;  I  had  seen  her  tested,  as  she  grew  up^  in  more  than  one 
trying  family  crisis,  and  my  long  experience  made  me  attach  an  importance 
to  her  hesitation  under  the  circumstances  here  detailed,  which  I  should 
certainly  not  have  felt  in  the  case  of  another  woman.  I  could  see  no  cause 
for  any  uneasiness  or  any  doubt ;  but  she  had  made  me  a  little  uneasy,  and  a 
little  doubtful,  nevertheless.  In  my  youth,  I  should  have  chafed  and  fretted 
imder  the  irritation  of  my  own  unreasonable  state  of  mind.  In  my  ag^  I 
knew  better ;  and  went  out  philosophically  to  walk  it  off. 

n. 

We  all  met  again  at  dinner-time. 

Sir  Percival  was  in  such  boisterous  high  spirits  that  I  hardly  recognized 
him  as  the  same  man  whose  quiet  tact,  refinement,  and  good  sense  had 
impressed  me  so  strongly  at  the  interview  of  the  morning.  The  only  trace 
of  his  former  self  that  I  could  detect,  reappeared,  every  now  and  then,  in  his 
manner  towards  Miss  Fairlie.  A  look  or  a  word  fix)m  her,  suspended  his 
loudest  laugh,  checked  his  gayest  flow  of  talk,  and  rendered  him  all  atten- 
tion to  her,  and  to  no  one  else  at  table,  in  an  instant.  Although  he  never 
openly  tried  to  draw  her  into  the  conversation,  he  never  lost  the  slightest 
chance  she  gave  him  of  letting  her  drift  into  it  by  accident,  and  of  saying 
the  words  to  her,  under  those  favourable  circumstances,  which  a  man  with 
less  tact  and  delicacy  would  have  pointedly  addressed  to  her  the  moment 
they  occurred  to  him.  Bather  to  my  surprise,  Miss  Fairlie  appeared  to  be 
sensible  of  his  attentions,  without  being  moved  by  them.  She  was  a  little 
confased  from  time  to  time,  when  he  looked  at  her,  or^  spoke  to  her  ;  but 
she  never  warmed  towards  him.     Bank,  fortune,  good  breeding,  good 

oks,  the  respect  of  a  gentleman,  and  the  devotion  of  a  lover,  wera  all 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  103 

tti\m\)ly  placed  at  lier  feet,  and,  so  fer  oa  appearances  went,  were  all  offered 
ia  vain. 

On  the  next  day,  the  Tuesday,  Sir  Peroival  went  in  the  morning  (taking 
one  of  the  servants  with  him  as  a  guide)  to  Todd's  Comer.  His  inquiriea, 
as  I  afterwards  heard,  led  to  no  results.  On  his  return,  he  had  an  inters 
vie^  with  Mr.  I7airlie ;  and  in  the  afternoon  he  and  Miss  Haloomhe  rode 
oat  together.  Nothing  else  happened  worthy  of  record.  The  evening 
leased  as  usual.  Th^ie  was  no  change  in  Sir  Pexxnval,  and  no  change  in 
Misa  Furlie. 

The  Wednesday's  post  brought  with  it  an  event — the  reply  from  Mrs. 
C&theriGik.  I  took  a  copy  of  the  document,  which  I  have  preflerved,  and 
which  1  may  as  well  present  in  this  place.    It  ran  as  follows : — 

"Madah, — ^1  h^  to  acknowledge  the  receipt  of  your  letter,  inquiring 
whether  my  danghter,  Anne,  was  placed  under  medical  superintendence 
with  my  knowledge  and  approval,  and  whether  the  share  taken  in  the 
matter  by  Sir  Percival  Glyde  was  such  as  to  merit  the  expression  of  my 
gratitude  towards  that  gentleman.  Be  pleased  to  accept  my  answer  in  the 
affimiativeto  both  those  questioDB,  and  believe  me  to  remain,  your  obedient 
servant, 

'^  jAxns  Anne  Gathesioe.'' 

Short,  sharp,  and  to  the  point :  in  f<»in,  rather  a  business-like  letter 
for  a  woman  to  write ;  in  substance,  as  plain  a  confirmation  as  could  be 
desired  of  Sir  Percival  Glyde's  statement.  This  ¥ras  my  opinion,  and  with 
certain  minor  reservations.  Miss  Halcombe's  opinion  also.  Sir  Percival, 
when  the  letter  was  shown  to  him,  did  not  appear  to  be  struck  by  thb  sharp, 
short  tone  of  it.  He  told  us  that  Mrs.  Oatherick  was  a  woman  of  few 
words,  a  clear-headed,  straightforward,  unimaginative  person,  who  wrote 
briefly  and  plainly,  just  as  she  spoke. 

The  next  duty  to  be  accomplished,  now  that  the  answer  had  been 
received,  was  to  acquaint  Miss  Fairlie  with  Sir  Percivars  explanation. 
Miss  Halcombe  had  undertaken  to  do  this,  and  had  left  the  room  to  go  to 
her  sister,  when  she  suddenly  returned  again,  and  sat  down  by  the  easy- 
chair  in  which  I  was  reading  the  newspaper.  Sir  Percival  had  gone  out  a 
minute  before,  to  look  at  the  stables,  and  no  one  was  in  the  room  but  our- 
selves. 

**  I  suppose  we  have  really  and  truly  done  all  we  can  ?"  she  said,  turning 
and  twisting  Mrs.  Catherick's  letter  in  her  hand. 

"  K  we  are  friends  of  Sir  Percival's,  who  know  him  and  trust  him,  we 
have  done  all,  and 'more,  than  all,  that  is  necessary,"  I  answered,  a  little 
annoyed  by  this  return  of  her  hesitation.  "-But  if  we  ore  enemies  who 
Bis|)cct  him-——'* 


104  THK  WOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

•*  That  altcrnativo  is  not  even  to  be  thought  o^"  she  interposed.  **  Wa 
are  Sir  Percivars  friends ;  and,  if  generosity  and  forbearance  can  add  to  our 
regard  for  him,  we  ought  to  be  Sir  Percival's  admirers  as  well.  You  know 
that' he  saw  Mr.  Fairlie  yesterday,  and  that  he  afterwards  went  out  with 
me?" 

**  Yes.    I  saw  you  riding  away  together." 

«  We  began  the  ride  by  talking  about  Anne  Catherick,  and  about  the 
singular  manner  in  which  Mr.  Hartright  met  with  her.  But  we  soon  dropped 
that  subject ;  and  Sir  Fercival  spoke  next,  in  the  most  unselfish  tennsy  of 
his  engagement  with  Laura.  He  said  he  had  observed  that  she  was  ont  of 
spirits,  and  he  Yras  willing,  if  not  informed  to  the  contrary,  to  attribute  to 
that  cause  the  alteration  in  her  manner  towards  him  during  his  present 
visit.  If,  however,  there  was  any  more  serious  reason  for  the  change,  he 
WJuld  entreat  that  no  constraint  might  be  placed  on  her  inclinations  either 
by  Mr.  Fairlie  or  by  me.  All  he  asked,  in  that  case,  was  that  she  would 
recall  to  mind,  for  the  last  time,  what  the  circumstances  were  under  which 
the  engagement  between  them  was  made,  and  what  his  conduct  had  been 
from  the  beginning  of  the  courtship  to  the  present  time.  If,  after  due 
reflection  on  those  two  subjects,  she  seriously  desired  that  he  should  with- 
draw his  pretensions  to  the  honour  of  becoming  her  husband — and  if  she 
would  tell  him  so  plainly,  with  her  own  lips— >he  would  sacrifice  himself 
by  leaving  her  perfectly  free  to  withdraw  from  the  engagement.** 

"  No  man  could  say  more  than  that,  Miss  Halcombe.  As  to  my  experi* 
ence,  few  men  in  his  situation  would  have  said  as  much." 

She  paused  after  I  had  spoken  those  words,  and  looked  at  me  with  a 
tingular  expression  of  perplexity  and  distress. 

''I  accuse  nobody  and  I  suspect  nothing,"  she  broke  out,  abruptly. 
**  But  I  cannot  and  will  not  accept  the  responsibility  of  persuading  I^ura 
to  this  marriage." 

*'  That  is  exactly  the  course  which  Sir  Fercival  Clyde  has  himself  re- 
quested you  to  take,"  I  replied,  in  astonishment.  '*  He  has  begged  you 
not  to  force  her  inclinations." 

"  And  he  indirectly  obliges  me  to  force  them,  if  I  give  her  his  message." 

"  How  can  that  possibly  be  ?" 

"  Consult  your  own  knowledge  of  Laura,  Mr.  Gilmore.  If  I  tell  her  to 
reflect  on  the  circumstances  of  her  engagement^  I  at  once  appeal  to  two  of 
the  strongest  feelings  in  her  nature— to  her  love  for  her  father's  memory, 
and  to  her  strict  regard  for  truth.  You  know  that  she  never  broke  a  pro- 
mise in  her  life ;  you  know  that  she  entered  on  this  engagement  at  the 
beginning  of  her  father's  fatal  illness,  and  that  he  spoke  hopefully  and 
happily  of  her  marriage  to  Sir  Fercival  Glyde  on  his  death-bed." 

I  own  that  I  was  a  little  shocked  at  this  view  of  the  case. 

"  Surely,"  I  said,  "  you  don't  mean  to  infer  that  when  Sir  Fercival  spokr 


TOE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE.  105 

to  yon  yesterday,  he  specalated  on  such  a  result  as  you  have  just  meo- 
Uonedr 

Her  frank,  fearless  face  answered  for  her  before  she  snokc. 

'*  Do  you  think  I  would  remain  an  instant  in  the  oomi)any  of  any  mas 
whom  I  suspected  of  sucn  oaseness  as  that  ?"  she  asked,  angrily. 

I  liked  to  feel  her  hearty  indignation  flash  out  on  me  in  that  way.  We 
see  so  much  malice  and  so  little  indignation  in  my  profession. 

"  In  that  case,"  I  said,  ''  excuse  me  if  I  tell  you,  in  our  legal  phrase, 
t;hat  you  are  travelling  out  of  the  record.  Whatever  the  consequences  may 
be,  Sir  Percival  has  a  right  to  expect  that  your  sister  should  carefully  con- 
sider her  engagement  from  every  reasonable  point  of  view  before  she  claims 
her  release  from  it.  If  that  unlucky  letter  has  prejudiced  her  against  him, 
go  at  once,  and  tell  her  that  he  has  cleared  himself  in  your  eyes  and  in 
mine.  What  objection  can  she  urge  against  him  after  that  ?  What  excuse 
can  she  possibly  have  for  changing  her  mind  aljout  a  man  whom  she  had 
virtually  accepted  for  her  husband  more  than  two  years  ago  ?*' 

''In  the  eyes  of  law  and  reason,  Mr.  Gihnore,  no  excuse,  I  dare  say.  If 
she  stiU  hesitates,  and  if  I  still  hesitate,  you  must  attribute  our  strange 
conduct,  if  you  like,  to  caprice  in  both  cases,  and  we  must  bear  the  impu- 
tation as  well  as  we  can." 

With  those  words;  she  suddenly  rose,  and  left  me.  When  a  sensible 
woman  has  a  serious  question  put  to  her,  and  evades  it  by  a  flippant 
answer,  it  is  a  sure  sign,  in  ninety-nine  cases  out  of  a  hundred,  that  she 
has  something  to  conceal.  I  returned  to  the  perusal  of  the  newspaper, 
strongly  suspecting  that  Miss  Halcombe  and  Miss  Fairlie  had  a  secret 
between  them  which  they  were  keeping  from  Sir  Perdval  and  keeping 
from  me.     I  thought  this  hard  on  both  of  us— especially  on  Sir  Percival. 

My  doubts — or,  to  speak  more  correctly,  my  convictions — ^were  con- 
firmed by  Miss  Halcombe*s  language  and  manner,  when  I  saw  her  again 
lal4!r  in  ^e  day.  She  was  suspiciously  brief  and  reserved  in  telling  me  the 
result  of  her  interview  with  her  sister.  Miss  Fairlie,  it  appeared,  had 
listened  quietly  while  the  affair  of  the  letter  was  placed  before  her  in  the 
right  point  of  view  ;  but  when  Miss  Halcombe  next  proceeded  to  say  that 
the  object  of  Sir  Percival's  visit  at  Limmeridge  was  to  prevail  on  her  to  let 
a  day  be  fixed  for  the  marriage,  she  checked  a]l  further  refeience  to  the 
subject  by  begging  for  time.  If  Sir  Percival  would  consent  to  spare  her  for 
the  present,  she  would  undertake  to  give  him  his  final  answer,  before  the 
end  of  the  year.  She  pleaded  for  this  delay  with  such  anxiety  and  cita- 
tion, that  Miss  Halcombe  had  promised  to  use  her  influence,  if  necessary, 
to  obtain  it ;  and  there,  at  Miss  Fairlie's  earnest  entreaty,  all  further  dis- 
cussion of  the  marriage  question  had  ended. 

The  purely  temporary  arrangement  thus  proposed  might  have  been  con- 
venient enough  to  the  young  lady  ;  but  it  proved  somewhat  emban-assiiij? 


106  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITe. 

to  tho  writer  of  these  lines.  That  moming'B  post  had  brought  a  letter  from 
my  partner,  which  obliged  me  to  return  to  town  the  next  day,  by  the  after- 
noon train.  It  was  extremely  probable  that  I  should  find  no  second  oppor- 
tunity of  presenting  myself  at  Limmeridge  House  during  the  remainder  of 
'the  year.  In  that  case,  supposing  Miss  Fairlie  tdtimatoly  decided  on  hold- 
ing to  her  engagement,  my  necessary,  x^ersonal  communication  with  her, 
before  I  drew  her  settlement,  would  become  something  like  a  downright 
impossibility ;  and  we  should  be  obliged  to  commit  to  writing  questions 
which  ought  always  to  be  discussed  on  both  sides  by  word  of  mouth.  I 
said  nothing  about  this  difficulty,  until  Sir  Percival  had  been  consulted  on 
the  subject  of  the  desired  delay.  He  was  too  gallant  a  gentleman  not  to 
giant  the  request  immediately.  When  Miss  Halcombe  informed  me  of  this, 
I  told  her  that  I  must  absolutely  speak  to  her  sister,  before  I  left  Lim- 
meridge ;  and  it  was,  therefore,  arranged  that  I  should  see  Miss  Fairlie  in 
her  own  sitting-room,  the  next  morning.  She  did  not  come  down  to  dinner, 
or  join  us  in  the  evening.  Indisposition  was  the  excuse ;  and  I  thought  Sir 
PerciTal  looked,  as  well  he  might,  a  little  annoyed  when  he  heard  of  it. 

The  next  morning,  as  soon  as  breakfiut  was  over,  I  went  up  to  Miss 
Fairlie'«  sitting-room.  The  poor  girl  looked  so  pale  and  sad,  and  came 
forward  to  welcome  me  so  readily  and  prettily,  that  the  resolution  to  lec- 
ture her  on  her  caprice  and  indecision,  which  I  had  been  forming  all  the 
way  up-stairs,  failed  me  on  the  spot.  I  led  her  back  to  the  chair  from 
which  she  had  risen,  and  placed  myself  opposite  to  her.  Her  cross-grained 
pet  greyhound  was  in  the  room,  and  I  fully  expected  a  barking  and  snap- 
ping reception.  Strange  to  say,  the  whimsical  little  brute  fiilsified  my 
expectatbns  by  jumping  into  my  lap,  and  poking  its  sharp  muzzle  fami- 
liarly into  my  himd  the  moment  I  sat  down. 

**  You  used  often  to  sit  on  my  knee  when  you  were  a  child,  my  dear,"  1 
said,  **  and  now  your  little  dog  seems  determined  to  succeed  you  in  the 
vacant  throne.    Is  that  pretty  drawing  your  doing  ?" 

I  pointed  to  a  little  album,  which  lay  on  the  teble  by  her  side,  and  which 
she  had  evidently  been  looking  over  when  I  came  in.  The  page  that  lay 
open  had  a  small  water-colour  landscape  very  neatly  mounted  on  it.  This 
was  the  drawing  which  had  suggested  my  question :  an  idle  question 
enough — but  how  could  I  begin  to  talk  of  business  to  her  the  moment  I 
opened  my  lips  ? 

**  No,**  she  said,  looking  away  from  the  drawing  rather  oonfusedly ;  **  it 
IB  not  my  doing.'* 

Her  fingers  had  a  restless  habit,  which  I  remembered  in  her  as  a  child, 
of  always  playing  with  the  first  thing  that  came  to  hand,  whenever  any  one 
was  talking  to  her.  On  this  occasion  they  wandered  to  the  &lbum,  and 
toyed  absently  about  the  margin  of  the  little  water-colour  drawing.  The 
expression  of  melancholy  deepened  on  her  lace.    She  did  not  look  at  the 


THE  WOMAN  iN   WHITE.  107 

drawing^  or  look  at  me.  Her  eyes  moved  uneasily  from  object  to  object  in 
the  room ;  betraying  plainly  tbat  she  suspected  what  my  purpose  was  in 
oommg  to  speak  to  her.  Seeing  that,  I  thought  it  best  to  get  to  the  pur- 
pose with  as  little  delay  as  possible. 

'^One  of  the  errands,  my  dear,  which  brings  me  here  is  to  bid  you  goodx 
by,"  I  began.  *'  I  must  get  back  to  London  to-day  :  and,  before  I  leave, 
J  want  to  have  a  word  with  you  on  the  subject  of  your  own  affairs." 

'*I  am  very  sorry  you  are  going,  Mr.  Gilmore,'*  she  said,  looking  at  me 
kindly.    "  It  is  like  tihe  happy  old  times  to  have  you  here." 

''I  hope  I  may  be  able  to  come  back,  and  recall  those  pleasant  memories 
ODoe  more,"!  continued;  ^'but  as  there  is  some  uncertainty  about  the 
fature,  I  must  take  my  opportunity  when  I  can  get  it,  and  speak  to  you 
now.  I  am  your  old  lawyer  and  your  old  friend ;  and  I  may  remind  yon, 
1  am  sore,  without  offence,  of  the  possibility  of  your  marrying  Bir  Perdval 
Glyde." 

She  took  her  hand  off  the  little  album  as  suddenly  as  if  it  had  turned 
hot  and  burnt  her.  Her  fingers  twined  together  nervously  in  her  lap ;  her 
eyes  looked  down  again  at  the  floor ;  and  an  expression  of  constraint  settled 
on  her  &ce  which  looked  almost  like  an  expression  of  pain. 

*'  Is  it  absolutely  necessary  to  speak  of  my  marriage  engt^ement?"  she 
asked,  in  low  tones. 

"  It  is  necessary  to  refer  to  it,"  I  answered ;  "  but  not  to  dwell  on  it. 
Let  us  merely  say  that  you  may  marry,  or  that  you  may  not  marry.  In 
the  first  case,  I  must  be  prepared,  beforehand,  to  draw  your  settlement ; 
sndl  ought  not  to  do  that  without,  as  a  matter  of  politeness,  first  consult- 
ing you.  This  may  be  my  only  chance  of  hearing  what  your  wishes  are. 
Let  us,  there£bre,  suppose  the  case  of  your  marrying,  and  let  me  inform 
yon,  m  as  few  words  as  possible,  what  your  position  is  now,  and  what  you 
may  make  it,  if  you  please,  in  the  future." 

I  explained  to  her  the  object  of  a  marriage-settlement ;  and  then  told  her 
exactly  what  her  prospects  were — in  the  first  place,  on  her  coming  of  age, 
and,  in  the  second  place,  on  the  decease  of  her  uncle — ^marking  the  dis- 
tinction between  the  property  in  which  she  had  a  life  interest  only,  and  the 
property  which  was  left  at  her  own  control.  She  listened  attentively,  with 
the  constrained  expression  still  on  her  £ace^  and  her  hands  still  nervously 
clasped  tc^ether  in  her  lap. 

**  And  now,"  I  said,  in  conclusion,  "  tell  me  if  you  can  think  of  any 
condition  which,  in  the  case  we  have  supposed,  you  would  wish  me  to  make 
for  you — subject,  of  course,  to  your  guar^an's  approval,  as  you  are  not  yet 

of  age." 
She  moved  uneasily  in  her  chair — then  looked  in  my  fiaoe,  On  a  sudden, 

very  earnestly. 
**  If  it  does  happen,"  she  began,  faintly ;  "  if  I  am ^ 


108  TITE  WOMA^i    IN   WRITS 

"  If  you  are  married/'  I  added,  helping  her  out. 

'*  Don't  let  him  part  me  from  Marian,"  she  cried,  with  a  sudden  out- 
break of  energy.  **  Oh,  Mr.  Gihnore,  pray  make  it  law  that  Marian  is  to 
live  with  me !" 

Under  otner  circumstances  I  might  perhaps  have  been  amused  at  this 
essentially  feminine  interpretation  of  my  question,  and  of  the  long  explana- 
tion which  had  preceded  it.  But  her  looks  and  tones,  when  she  spoke, 
were  of  a  kind  to  make  me  more  than  serious — ^they  distressed  me.  Her 
Arords,  few  as  they  were,  betrayed  a  desperate  clinging  to  the  past  which 
boded  ill  for  the  future. 

**  Your  having  Marian  Halcombe  to  live  with  you,  can  easily  be  settled 
by  private  arrangement,"  I  said.  "  You  hardly  understood  my  question,  I 
think.  It  referred  to  your  own  property — ^to  the  disposal  of  your  money. 
Supposing  you  were  to  make  a  will,  when  you  come  of  age,  who  would  you 
like  the  money  to  go  to  ?" 

**  Marian  has  been  mother  and  sister  both  to  me,"  said  the  good,  affec- 
tionate girl,  her  pretty  blue  eyes  glistening  while  she  spoke.  ''May  I 
leave  it  to  Marian,  Mr.  Gilmore?" 

**  Certainly,  my  love,"  I  answered.  **  But  remember  what  a  large  sum  it 
is.    Would  you  like  it  all  to  go  to  Miss  Halcombe?" 

She  hesitated ;  her  colour  came  and  went ;  and  her  hand  stole  back  again 
to  the  little  album. 

'*  Kot  all  of  it,"  she  said.    **  There  is  some  one  else,  besides  Marian        " 

She  stopped ;  her  colour  heightened ;  and  the  fingers  of  the  hand  that 
rested  upon  the  album  beat  gently  on  the  margin  of  the  drawing,  as  if  her 
memory  had  set  them  going  mechanically  with  the  remembrance  of  a 
favourite  tune. 

''You  mean  some  other  member  of  the  family  besides  Miss  Halcombe  ?** 
I  suggested,  seeing  her  at  a  loss  to  proceed. 

The  heightening  colour  spread  to  her  forehead  and  her  neck,  and  the 
nervous  fingers  suddenly  clasped  themselves  fast  round  the  edge  of  the 
book. 

*'  There  is  some  one  else,"  she  said,  not  noticing  my  last  words,  though 
she  had  evidently  heard  them ;  "  there  is  some  one  else  who  might  like  a 
little  keepsake,  if — ^if  I  might  leave  it.  There  would  be  no  harm,  if  I 
should  die  first " 

She  paused  again.  The  colour  that  had  spread  over  her  cheeks  suddenly, 
OS  suddenly  left  them.  The  hand  on  the  album  resigned  its  hold,  trembled 
a  little,  and  moved  the  book  away  from  her.  She  looked  at  me  for  an 
instant — then  turned  her  head  aside  in  the  chair.  Her  handkerchief  feL 
to  the  floor  as  she  changed  her  position,  and  she  hurriedly  hid  her  face  from 
me  In  her  hands. 

Sad  I    To  remember  her,  as  I  did,  the  liveliest,  happiest  child  that  evei 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  100 

laughed  the  day  throngh ;  and  to  Bee  her  now,  in  the  flower  of  her  age  and 
her  beauty,  so  broken  and  bo  brought  down  as  this  1 

In  the  distress  that  she  caused  me,  I  forgot  the  years  that  had  passed, 
and  the  change  they  had  made  in  our  position  towards  one  another.  I 
moved  my  chair  close  to  her,  and  picked  up  her  handkerchief  from  the 
carpet,  and  drew  her  hands  from  her  face  gently,  "  Don't  cry,  my  love," 
I  said,  and  dried  the  tears  that  were  gathering  in  her  eyes,  with  my  own 
hand,  as  if  she  had  been  the  little  Laura  Fairlie  of  ten  long  years  ago. 

It  was  the  best  way  I  could  have  taken  to  compose  her.  She  laid  her 
head  on  my  shoulder,  and  smiled  faintly  through  her  tears. 

"I  am  very  sorry  for  forgetting  myself^"  she  said,  artlessly.  "1  have 
not  been  well — I  have  felt  sadly  weak  and  nervous  lately ;  and  I  often  cry 
without  reason  when  I  am  alone.  I  am  better  now ;  I  can  answer  you  as 
I  ought,  Mr.  Gilmore,  I  can  indeed." 

**  No,  no,  my  dear,*'  I  replied ;  "  we  will  consider  the  subject  as  done  with, 
for  the  present.  You  have  said  enough  to  sanction  my  taking  the  best 
possible  care  of  your  interests ;  and  we  can  settle  details  at  another  oppor- 
tonity.    Let  us  have  done  with  business,  now,  and  talk  of  something  else." 

I  led  her  at  once  into  speaking  on  other  topics.  In  ten  minutes'  time, 
she  was  in  better  spirits ;  and  I  rose  to  take  my  leave. 

**  Gome  here  again,"  she  said  earnestly.  "  I  will  try  to  be  worthier  of 
your  kind  feeling  fpr  me  and  for  my  interests  if  you  will  only  come  again." 

Still  clinging  to  the  past — ^that  past  which  I  represented  to  her,  in  my 
way,  as  Miss  Halcombe  did  in  hers !  It  troubled  me  sorely  to  see  her  look- 
ing back,  at  the  beginning  of  her  career,  just  as  I  look  back  at  the  end  of 
mine. 

"  If  I  do  come  again,  I  hope  I  shall  find  you  better,"  I  said — "  better 
and  happier.     God  bless  you,  my  dear !" 

She  only  answered  by  putting  up  her  cheek  to  me  to  be  kissed.  Even 
lawyers  have  hearts  ;  and  mine  ached  a  little  as  I  took  leave  of  her. 

The  whole  interview  between  us  had  hardly  lasted  more  than  half  an 
hour — she  had  not  breathed  a  word,  in  my  presence,  to  explain  the  mystery 
of  her  evident  distress  and  dismay  at  the  prospect  of  her  marriage — and 
yet  she  had  contrived  to  win  me  over  to  her  side  of  the  question,  I  neither 
knew  bow  nor  why.  I  had  entered  the  room,  feeling  that  Sir  Percival 
Glyde  had  flur  reason  to  complain  of  the  manner  in  which  she  was  treating 
him.  I  left  it,  secretly  hoping  that  matters  might  end  in  her  taking  him 
at  his  word  and  claiming  her  release.  A  man  of  my  age  and  experience 
ought  to  have  known  better  than  to  vacillate  in  this  unreasonable  manner. 
I  can  make  no  excuse  for  myself;  I  can  only  tell  the  truth,  and  say — so 
it  was. 

The  hour  for  my  departure  was  now  drawing  near.  I  sent  to  Mr.  Fairlie 
to  say  that  I  would  wait  on  him  to'take  leave  if  he  liked,  but  that  he  must 


110  THE  WOMAN  IN  IfHITE. 

excuse  my  being  rather  in  a  hurry.  He  sent  a  message  back,  written  io 
pencil  on  a  slip  o^  paper :  '*  Kind  love  and  best  wishes,  dear  Gilmors 
Uurry  of  any  kind  is  inexpressibly  injurious  to  me.  Pray  take  care  of 
yourself.    Good-by." 

Just  before  I  left,  I  saw  Miss  Haloombe,  for  a  moment,  alone. 

**  Have  you  said  all  you  wanted  to  Laura  ?^  she  asked. 

**  Yes,"  I  replied.    ''  She  is  very  weak  and  nervoua— I  am  glad  ahe  has 
you  to  take  care  of  her." 

Miss  Halcombe's  sharp  eyes  studied  my  face  attentively. 

''You  are  altering  your  opinion  about  Laura,"  she  said.     "Yoa  are 
readier  to  make  allowances  for  her  than  you  were  yesterday." 

No  sensible  man  ever  engages,  unprepared,  in  a  fencing  match  of  words 
with  a  woman.    I  only  answered : 

**  Let  me  know  what  happens.    I  will  do  nothing  till  I  hear  from  you." 

She  still  looked  hard  in  my  face.  "  I  wish  it  was  all  over,  and  well 
over,  Mr.  Gilmore— and  so  do  you."    With  those  words  she  left  me. 

Sir  Percival  most  politely  insisted  on  seeing  me  to  tiie  carriage  door. 

**  If  you  are  ever  in  my  neighbourhood,"  he  said,  **  pray  don't  forget  that 
1  am  sincerely  anxious  to  improve  our  acquaintance.  The  tried  and  trusted 
old  friend  of  this  fjEunily  will  be  always  a  welcome  visitor  in  any  house  of 
mine." 

A  really  irresistible  man — courteous,  considerate,  delightfully  free  from 
pride — a  gentleman,  every  inch  of  him.  As  I  drove  away  to  the  statton,  I 
felt  as  if  I  could  cheerfully  do  anything  to  promote  the  interests  of  Sir 
Percival  Glyde — anything  in  the  world,  except  drawing  the  marriage- 
settlement  of  lus  wife. 

IIL 
A  WEEK  passed,  after  my  return  to  London,  without  the  receipt  of  auy 
communication  from  Miss  Halcombe. 

'   On  the  eighth  day,  a  letter  in  her  handwriting  was  placed  among  the 
Other  letters  on  my  table. 

It  announced  that  Sir  Percival  Glyde  had  been  definitely  accepted,  and 
that  the  marriage  was  to  take  place,  as  he  had  originally  desired,  before 
the  end  of  the  year.  Li  all  probability  the  ceremony  would  be  performed 
during  the  last  fortnight  in  December.  Miss  Fairlie's  twenty-first 
birthday  was  late  in  March.  She  would,  therefore,  by  this  arrangement, 
f:ieoome  Sir  Percival's  wife  about  three  months  before  ^e  was  of  age. 

I  ought  not  to  have  been  surprised,  I  ought  not  to  have  been  sorry ;  but 
r  was  surprised  and  sorry,  nevertheless.  Some  little  disappointment^ 
caused  by  the  unsatisfactory  shortness  of  Miss  Halcombe's  letter,  mingled 
itself  with  these  feelings,  and  contributed  its  share  towards  upsetting  my 
terenily  for  the  day.    In  six  lines  my  correspcudent  announced  the  pro« 


THE  WOVAN  IN  WHITE.  Ill 

posed  marrii^ ;  in  three  more,  she  tq)d  xne  that  Sir  Perdval  had  left 
Cumberland  to  retnm  to  his  honse  in  Hampshire ;  and  in  two  concluding 
sentences  fihe  informed  me,  first,  that  Laura  was  sadly  in  want  of  change 
and  cheerful  society  ;  secondly,  that  she  had  resolved  to  try  the  effect  o^ 
some  such  change  forthwith,  hy  taking  her  sister  away  with  her  on  a  visit 
to  certain  old  friends  in  Yorkshire.  There  the  letter  ended,  without  a 
word  to  explain  what  the  circumstances  were  which  had  decided  Misis 
Fairlie  to  accept  Sir  Fercival  Glyde  in  one  short  week  from  the  time  when 
I  had  last  seen  her. 

At  a  later  period,  the  cause  of  this  sudden  determination  was  fully 
explained  to  me.  It  is  not  my  husiness  to  relate  it  imperfectly,  on  hearsay 
evidence.  The  circumstances  came  within  the  personal  experience  of  Miss 
Halcomhe;  and,  wheti'her  narrative  succeeds  mine,  she  will  describe  them 
in  every  particular,  exactly  as  they  happened.  In  the  mean  time,  tlie 
plain  duty  for  me  to  perform — before  1,  in  my  turn,  lay  down  my  pen  and 
withdraw  from  the  story — ^is  to  relate  the  one  remaining  event  connected 
with  Miss  Fairlie's  proposed  marriage  in  which  I  was  concerned,  namely, 
ihe  drawing  of  the  settlement. 

It  is  impossihle  to  refer  intelligibly  to  this  document,  without  first 
entering  into  certain  particulars,  in  relation  to  the  bride's  pecuniary  affairs. 
I  will  try  to  make  my  explanation  briefly  and  plainly,  and  to  keep  it  free 
from  professional*  ohscurities  and  technicalities.  The  matter  is  of  the 
utmost  importance.  I  warn  all  readers  of  these  lines  that  Miss  Fairlie's 
inheritance  is  a  very  serious  part  of  Miss  Fairlie*s  story ;  and  that  Mr. 
Gihnore's  experience,  in  this  particular,  must  be  their  experience  also,  if 
they  wish  to  understand  the  narratives  which  are  yet  to  come. 

Miss  Fairlie's  expectations,  then,  were  of  a  twofold  kind ;  comprising 
her  possible  inheritance  of  real  property,  or  land,  when  her  uncle  died, 
and  her  absolute  inheritance  of  personal  property,  or  money,  when  she 
came  of  age. 

Let  us  take  the  land  first. 

In  the  time  of  Miss  Fairlie's  paternal  grandfather  (whom  we  will  call 
Kr.  Fairlie,  the  elder)  the  entailed  succession  to  the  Limmeridge  estate 
stood  thus : 

Mr.  Fairlie,  the  elder,  died  and  left  three  sons,  Philip,  Frederick,  and 
Arthur.  As  eldest  son,  Philip  succeeded  to  the  estate.  If  he  died  without 
leaving  a  son,  the  property  went  to  the  second  brother,  Frederick.  And  if 
Frederick  died  also  without  leaving  a  son,  the  property  went  to  the  third 
brother,  Arthur. 

As  events  turned  out,  Mr.  Philip  Fairlie  died  leaving  an  only  daughter, 
the  Laura  of  this  story ;  and  the  estate,  in  consequence,  went,  in  Course  ol 
law,  to  the  second  brother,  Frederick,  a  single  man.  The  third  brother, 
Arthur,  had  died  many  years  before  the  decease  of  Philip,  leaving  a  ir 


112  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

and  a  daughter.  The  son,  at  the  age  of  eighteen,  was  drowned  at  Oxford. 
Ilis  death  left  Laura,  the  daughter  of  Mr.  Philip  Fairlie,  presumptive 
heiress  to  the  estate ;  with  every  chance  of  succeeding  to  it,  in  the  ordinary 
course  of  nature,  on  her  uncle  Frederick's  death,  if  the  said  Frederick  died 
without  leaving  male  issue. 

Except  in  the  event,  then,  of  Mr.  Frederick  Fairlie*s  marrying  and 
leaving  an  heir  (the  two  very  last  things  in  the  world  that  he  was  likely 
to  do),  his  niece,  Laura,  would  have  the  property  on  his  death ;  possessing, 
it  must  be  remembered,  nothing  more  than  a  life-interest  in  it.  If  she 
died  single,  or  died  childless,  the  estate  would  revert  to  her  cousin 
Magdalen,  the  daughter  of  Mr.  Arthur  Fairlie.  If  she  married,  with  a 
proper  settlement— or,  in  other  words,  with  the  settlement  I  meant  to 
make  for  her — the  income  from  the  estate  (a  good  three  thousand  a  year) 
would,  during  her  lifetime,  be  at  her  own  disposal.  If  she  died  before  her 
husband,  he  would  naturally  expect  to  be  left  in  the  enjoyment  of  the 
income,  for  his  lifetime.  If  she  had  a  son,  that  son  would  be  the  heir,  to 
the  exclusion  of  her  cousin  Magdalen.  Thus,  Sir  Percival's  prospects  in 
marrying  Miss  Fairlie  (so  far  as  his  wife's  expectations  from  real  property 
were  concerned)  promised  him  these  two  advantages,  on  Mr.  Frederick 
Fairlie's  death :  First,  the  use  of  three  thousand  a  year  (by  his  wife's  p^- 
mission,  while  she  lived,  and,  in  his  own  right,  on  her  death,  if  he  survived 
her) ;  and,  secondly,  the  inheritance  of  Limmeridge  for  his  son,  if  he  had 
one. 

So  much  for  the  landed  property,  and  for  the  disposal  of  the  income  from 
it)  on  the  occasion  of  Miss  Fairlie's  marriage.  Thus  &r,  no  difficulty  or 
difference  of  opinion  on  the  lady's  settlement  was  at  all  likely  to  arise 
between  Sir  Percival's  lawyer  and  myself. 

The  personal  estate,  or,  in  other  words,  the  money  to  which  Miss  Fairlie 
would  become  entitled  on  reaching  the  age  of  twenty-one  years,  is  the  next 
point  to  consider. 

Tliis  part  of  her  inheritance  was,  in  itself,  a  comfortable  little  fortune. 
It  was  derived  under  her  father's  will,  and  it  amounted  to  the  sum  of 
twenty  thousand  pounds.  Besides  this,  she  had  a  life-interest  in  ten 
thousand  pounds  more ;  which  latter  amount  was  to  go,  on  her  decease,  to 
her  aunt  Eleanor,  her  father's  only  sister.  It  will  greatly  assist  in  setting 
the  family  affairs  before  the  reader  in  the  clearest  possible  light,  if  I  stop 
here  for  a  moment,  to  explain  why  the  aunt  had  been  kept  waiting  for  her 
legacy  until  the  death  of  the  niece. 

Mr.  Philip  Fairlie  had  lived  on  excellent  terms  with  his  sister  Eleanor, 
as  long  as  she  remained  a  single  woman.  But  when  her  marriage  took 
place,  somewhat  late  in  life,  and  when  that  marriage  united  her  to  an 
Italian  gentleman,  named  Fosoo — or,  rather,  to  an  Italian  nobleman,  seeing 
that  he  rejoiced  in  the  title  of  Count — ^Mr.  Fairlie  disapproved  of  her 


THE  VOMA^  IN  WBITK.  113 

conduct  so  stroagly  that  he  ceased  to  hold  any  oommunication  with  her, 
and  even  went  the  length  of  striking  her  name  out  of  his  will.  The  other 
members  of  the  family  all  thought  this  serious  manifestation  of  resentmen 
at  his  sister's  marriage  more  or  less  unreasonable.  Count  Fosoo,  though 
not  a  rich  man,  was  not  a  penniless  adventurer  either.  He  had  a  small,  but 
sufficient  income  of  his  own ;  he  had  lived  many  years  in  England ;  and 
he  held  an  excellent  position  in  society.  These  recommendations,  however, 
availed  nothing  with  Mr.  Fairlie.  In  many  of  his  opinions  he  was  an 
Englishman  of  the  old  school ;  and  he  hated  a  foreigner,  simply  and  solely 
because  he  was  a  foreigner.  The  utmost  that  he  could  be  prevailed  on  to 
do,  in  after  years,  mainly  at  Miss  Fairlie's  intercession,  was  to  restore  his 
sister's  name  to  its  former  place  in  his  will,  but  to  keep  her  waiting  for  her 
legacy  by  giving  the  income  of  the  money  to  his  daughter  for  life,  and  the 
money  itself,  if  her  aunt  died  beibre  her,  to  her  cousin  Magdalen.  Con- 
sidering the  relative  ages  of  the  two  ladies,  the  aunt's  chance,  in  the  ordinary 
course  of  nature,  of  receiving  the  ten  thousand  poimds,  was  thus  rendered 
doubtful  in  the  extreme ;  and  Madame  Fosco  resented  her  brother's  treat* 
ment  of  her  as  unjustly  as  usual  in  such  cases,  by  refusing  to  see  her 
niece,  and  declining  to  believe  that  Miss  Fairlie's  intercession  had  ever 
been  exerted  to  restore  her  name  to  Mr.  Fairlie's  ^411. 

Such  was  the  history  of  the  ten  thousand  pounds.  Here  again  no 
difiSculty  could  arise  with  Sir  Percival's  legal  adviser.  The  income  would 
be  at  the  wife's  disposal,  and  the  principal  would  go  to  her  aunt,  or  her 
cousin,  on  her  death. 

All  preliminary  explanations  being  now  cleared  out  of  the  way,  I  come, 
at  last,  to  the  real  knot  of  the  case — to  the  twenty  thousand  pounds. 

This  sum  was  absolutely  Miss  Fairlie's  own,  on  her  completing  her 
twenty-first  year ;  and  the  whole  future  disposition  of  it  depended,  in  the 
first  instance,  on  the  conditions  I  could  obtain  for  her  in  her  marriage- 
settlement.  The  other  clauses  contained  in  that  document  were  of  a 
fomial  kind,  and  need  not  be  recited  here.  But  the  clause  relating  to  the 
money  is  too  important  to  be  passed  over.  A  few  lines  will  be  sufficient  to 
give  the  necessary  abstract  of  it. 

My  stipulation  in  r^ard  to  the  twenty  thousand  pounds,  was  simply 
this :  The  whole  amount  was  to  be  settled  so  as  to  give  the  income  to  the 
lady  for  her  life ;  afterwards  to  Sir  Percival  for  his  life  ;  and  the  principal 
to  the  children  of  the  marriage.  In  default  of  issue,  the  principal  was  to 
be  disposed  of  as  the  lady  might  by  her  will  direct,  for  which  purpose  I 
reserved  to  her  the  right  of  making  a  will.  The  effect  of  these  conditions 
may  be  thus  summed  up.  If  Lady  Glyde  died  without  leaving  children, 
her  half-sister  Miss  Halcombe,  and  any  other  relatives  or  friends  whom 
she  might  be  anxious  to  benefit,  would,  on  her  husband's  death,  divide 
unong  them  such  shares  of  her  money  as  she  desired  them  to  have.    If,  oa 


114  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

the  other  hand,  she  died,  leaving  children,  then  their  interest,  natnially  and 
neoessarily,  superseded  all  other  interests  whatsoever.  This  was  the  clause : 
and  no  one  who  reads  it,  can  fail,  I  think,  to  agree  with  me  that  it  meted 
out  equal  justice  to  all  parties. 

We  shall  see  how  my  proposals  were  met  on  the  hushand's  side. 

At  the  time  when  Miss  Halcombe's  letter  reached  me,  I  was  even  more 
busily  occupied  than  usual.  But  I  contrived  to  make  leisure  for  the 
settlement.  I  had  drawn  it,  and  had  sent  it  for  approval  to  Sir  Perdvara 
solicitor,  in  less  than  a  week  from  the  time  when  Miss  Halcombe  had 
informed  me  of  the  proposed  marriage. 

After  a  lapse  of  two  days,  the  document  was  returned  to  me,  with 
notes  and  remarks  of  the  baronet's  lawyer.  His  objections,  in-graieral, 
proved  to  be  of  the  most  trifling  and  technical  kind,  until  he  came  to  the 
clause  relating  to  the  twenty  thousand  pounds.  Against  this,  there  were 
double  lines  drawn  in  red  ink,  and  the  following  note  was  appended  to  them : 

'*  Not  admissible.  The  jjrineipdl  to  go  to  Sir  Fercival  Glyde^  in  the 
event  of  his  surviving  Lady  Glyde,  and  there  being  no  issue." 

That  is  to  say,  not  one  fiEurthing  of  the  twenty  thousand  pounds  was  to 
go  to  Miss  Halcombe,  or  to  any  other  relative  or  friend  of  Lady  Glyde's. 
The  whole  sum,  if  she  left  no  children,  was  to  slip  into  the  pockets  of  her 
husband. 

The  answer  I  wrote  to  this  audacious  proposal  was  as  short  and  sharp 
as  I  could  make  it.  "  My  dear  sir.  Miss  Fairlie's  settlement.  I  main- 
tain the  clause  to  which  you  object,  exactly  as  it  stands.  Yours  truly." 
The  rejoinder  came  back  in  a  quarter  of  an  hour.  "  My  dear  sir.  Miss 
Fairli^s  settlement.  I  maintain  the  red  ink  to  which  you  object,  exactly 
as  it  stands.  Yours  truly."  In  the  detestable  slang  of  the  day,  we  were 
now  both  '*  at  a  dead-lock,"  and  nothing  was  left  for  it  but  to  refer  to  onr 
clients  on  either  side. 

As  matters  stood,  my  client — Miss  Fairlie  not  having  yet  completed  her 
twenty-first  year— was  her  guardian,  Mr.  Frederick  Fairlie.  I  wrote  by 
that  day's  post  and  put  the  case  before  him  exactly  as  it  stood ;  not  only 
urging  every  argument  I  could  think  of  to  induce  him  to  mftintftin  the 
clause  as  I  had  drawn  it,  but  stating  to  him  plainly  the  mercenary  motive 
which  was  at  the  bottom  of  the  opposition  to  my  settlement  of  the  twenty 
thousand  pounds.  The  knowledge  of  Sir  Percival's  affairs  which  I  had 
necessarily  gained  when  the  provisions  of  the  deed  on  his  side  were  snV 
mitted  in  due  course  to  my  examination,  had  but  too  plainly  informed  me 
that  the  debts  on  his  estate  were  enormous,  and  that  his  income,  though 
nominally  a  large  one,  was,  virtually,  for  a  man  in  his  position,  next  to 
nothing.  The  want  of  ready  money  was  the  practical  necessity  of  Sir 
Percival's  existence ;  and  his  lawyer's  note  on  the  clause  in  the  settlement 
was  nothing  but  the  frankly  selfish  expression  of  it 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITiS.  1I5 

Mr.  Pairlie's  an8W3r  reached  me  by  return  of  jiost^  and  proved  to  be 
wandering  and  irrelevant  in  the  extreme.  Turned  into  plain  English,  it 
practically  expressed  itself  to  this  effect:  "Would  dear  Gilmore  be  so 
very  obliging  as  not  to  worry  his  friend  and  client  about  such  a  trifle  as  a 
remote  contingency  ?  Was  it  likely  that  a  young  woman  of  twenty-one 
would  die  before  a  man  of  forty-five,  and  die  without  children  ?  On  the 
other  hand,  in  such  a  miserable  world  as  thia^  was  it  ix)ssible  to  over- 
estimate the  value  of  peace  and  quietness?  If  those  two  heavenly 
blessings  were  offered  in  exchange  for  such  an  earthly  trifle  as  a  remote 
cbance  of  twenty  thousand  pounds,  was  it  not  a  fair  bai^ain?  Surely, 
yes.    Then  why  not  make  it  T 

I  threw  the  letter  away  in  disgust.    Just  as  it  had  fluttered   to  the 
ground,  there  was  a  knock  at  my  door;    and  Sir  Percival's  solicitor, 
Mr.  Merriman,  was  shown  in.    There  are  many  varieties  of  sharp  prac- 
titioners in  this  world,  but,  I  think,  the  hardest  of  all  to  deal  with  are  the 
men  who  overreach  you  imder  the  disguise  of  inveterate  good  humour. 
A  fat,  well-fed,  smiling,  friendly  man  of  business  is  of  all  parties  to  a  bar- 
gain the  most  hopeless  to  deal  with.     Mr.  Merriman  was  one  of  this  class. 
"  And  how  is  good  Mr.  Gilmore  ?"   he  began,  all  in  a  glow  with  the 
^^annth  of  his  own  amiability.    "  Glad  to  see  you,  sir,  in  such  excellent 
health.    I  was  passing  your  door ;  and  I  thought  I  would  look  in,  in  case 
yon  might  have  something  to  say  to  me.     Do— now  pray  do  let  us  settle 
this  Uttle  diflerence  of  ours  by  word  of  mouth,  if  we  can  I     Have  you 
heard  from  your  client  yet  T* 
"  Yes.    Have  you  heard  from  yours  ?" 

"  My  dear,  good  sir !  I  wish  I  had  heard  from  him  to  any  purpose — ^I 
wish,  with  all  my  heart,  the  responsibility  was  off  my  shoulders  ;  but  he  is 
obstinate, — or,  let  me  rather  say,  resolute — and  he  won't  take  it  off. 
*  Merriman,  I  leave  details  to  you.  Do  what  you  think  right  for  my 
interests ;  and  consider  me  as  having  personally  withdrawn  from  the 
business  imtll  it  is  all  over.'  Those  were  Sir  Percival's  words  a  fortnight 
ago;  and  all  I  can  get  him. to  do  now  is  to  repeat  them.  I  am  not  a  hard 
naan,  Mr.  Gilmore,  as  you  know.  Personally  and  privately,  I  do  assure  you, 
I  should  like  to  sponge  out  that  note  of  mine  at  this  very  moment.  But 
if  Sir  Percival  won't  go  into  the  matter,  if  Sir  Percival  will  blindly  leave 
all  his  interests  in  my  sole  care,  what  course  can  I  possibly  take  except  the 
course  of  asserting  them  ?  My  hands  are  boimd— don't  you  see,  my  dear 
sir  ? — ^my  hands  are  bound." 
"  You  maintain  your  note  on  the  clause,  then,  to  the  letter  ?"  I  said. 
"  Yes— deuce  take  it  I  I  have  no  other  alternative."  He  walked  to  the 
fireplace,  and  warmed  himself,  humming  the  fag  end  of  a  tune  in  a  rich 
convivial  bass  voice,  "  What  does  your  side  say  ?"  he  went  on ;  «  now 
pray  tell  me— what  does  your  side  say  f 


116  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITB, 

I  was  ashamed  to  tell  him.  I  attempted  to  gain  time — ^nay,  I  did  worse. 
My  legal  instincts  got  the  better  of  me  ;  and  I  even  tried  to  bargain. 

"  Twenty  thousand  pounds  is  rather  a  large  sum  to  be  given  up  by  the 
lady's  friends  at  two  days'  notice,"  I  said. 

"  Very  true,"  replied  Mr.  Merriman,  looking  down  thoughtfully  at  his 
boots,    "  Properly  put,  sir — most  properly  put !" 

"  A  compromise,  recognizing  the  interests  of  the  lady's  family  as  well  as 
Ujo  interests  of  the  husband  might  not,  perhaps,  have  frightened  my  client 
cjuito  so  much."  I  went  on.  "  Come  1  come  !  this  contingency  resolves 
itself  into  a  matter  of  bargaining  after  all.  What  is  the  least  you  will 
take?" 

**  The  least  we  will  take,"  said  Mr.  Merriman,  "  is  nineteen-thousand- 
nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-pounds-nineteen-shillings  -  and-eleven  -pence- 
three-farthings.  Ha !  ha !  ha !  Excuse  me,  Mr.  Gilmore.  I  must  have 
my  little  joke." 

"  Little  enough  I"  I  remarked,  "  The  joke  is  just  worth  the  odd 
farthing  it  was  made  for." 

Mr.  Merriman  was  delighted.  He  laughed  over  my  retort  till  the  room 
rang  again.  - 1  was  not  half  so  good-humoured,  on  my  side;  I  came  back  to 
business,  and  closed  the  interview. 

"  This  is  Friday,"  I  said,    "  Give  us  till  Tuesday  next  for  our  final 


answer." 


"  By  all  means,"  replied  Mr.  Merriman.  "  Longer,  my  dear  sir,  if  you 
like."  He  took  up  his  hat  to  go ;  and  then  addressed  me  again,  *'  By 
the  way,"  he  said,  **  your  clients  in  Cumberland  have  not  heard  anything 
more  of  the  woman  who  wrote  the  anonymous  letter,  have  they  ?" 

"  Nothing  more,"  I  answered.     "  Have  you  fbund  no  trace  of  her  ?" 

"  Not  yet,"  said  my  legal  friend.  "  But  we  don't  despair.  Sir  Percival 
Las  his  suspicions  that  Somebody  is  keeping  her  in  hiding ;  and  we  are 
having  that  Somebody  watched." 

**  You  mean  the  old  woman  who  was  with  her  in  Cumberland,"  I  said. 

**  Quite  another  party,  sir,"  answered  Mr.  Merriman.  "  We  don't 
nappen  to  have  laid  hands  on  the  old  woman  yet.  Our  Somebody  is  a  man. 
We  have  got  him  close  under  our  eye  here  in  London  :  and  we  strongly 
suspect  he  had  something  to  do  with  helping  her  in  the  first  instance  to 
escape  from  the  Asylum.  Sir  Percival  wanted  to  question  him,  at  once  ; 
but  I  said,  *  No.  Questioning  him  will  only  put  him  on  his  guard : 
watch  him,  and  wait.'  We  shall  see  what  happens.  A  dangerous  woman 
to  be  at  large,  Mr.  Gilmore ;  nobody  knows  what  she  may  do  next.  I 
wish  you  good  morning,  sir.  On  Tuesday  next  I  shall  hope  for  the 
pleasure  of  hearing  from  you,*    He  smiled  amiably  and  went  out. 

My  mind  had  been  rather  absent  during  the  latter  part  of  tlie  conver- 
sation with  my  legal  friend.    I  wa»  so  anxious  about  the  matter  of  the 


THE   WOilA:^    IN   WHITE.  117 

settlemenfc,  that.  I  had  llfctle  attention  to  give  to  any  other  subject ;  ami, 
the  moment  I  was  left  alone  again,  I  began  to  think  over  what  my  next 
proceeding  ought  to  be. 

Iq  the  case  of  any  other  client,  I  should  have  acted  on  my  instructions, 
however  personally  distasteful  to  me,  and  have  given  up  the  point  about 
the  twenty  thousand  pounds  on  the  spot.  But  I  could  not  act  with  this 
business-hke  indifference  towards  Miss  Fairlie.  I  had  an  honest  feeling  of 
affection  and  admiration  for  her ;  I  remembered  gratefully  that  her  father 
had  been  the  kindest  patron  and  friend  to  me  that  ever  man  had  ;  I  had 
felt  towards  her,  while  I  was  drawing  the  settlement,  as  I  nndght  have  felt, 
if  I  had  not  been  an  old  bachelor,  towards  a  daughter  of  my  own ;  and  I 
was  determined  to  spare  no  personal  sacrifice  in  her  service  and  where  her 
interests  were  concerned.  Writing  a  second  time  to  Mr.  Fairlie  was  not 
to  be  thought  of ;  it  would  only  be  giving  him  a  second  opportunity  of 
slipping  through  my  fingers.  Seeing  him  and  personally  remonstrating 
with  him,  might  possibly  be  of  more  use.  The  next  day  was  Saturday. 
I  determined  to  take  a  return  ticket,  and  jolt  my  old  bones  down  to 
Cumberland,  on  the  chance  of  persuading  him  to  adopt  the  just,  the  in- 
dependent, and  the  honourable  course.  It  was  a  poor  chance  enough,  no 
doubt;  but,  when  I  had  tried  it,  my  conscience  would  be  at  ease.  I 
should  then  have  done  all  that  a  man  in  my  position  could  do  to  serve  the 
interests  of  my  old  friend's  only  child. 

The  weather  on  Saturday  was  beautiful,  a  west  wind  and  a  bright  sun. 
Having  felt  latterly  a  return  of  that  fulness  and  oppression  of  the  head, 
against  which  my  doctor  warned  me  so  seriously  more  than  two  years 
since,  I  resolved  to  take  the  opportunity  of  getting  a  little  extra  exercise^ 
by  sending  my  bag  on  before  me,  and  walking  to  the  terminus  in  Euston- 
square.  As  I  came  out  into  Holbom,  a  gentleman  walking  by  rapidly, 
stopped  and  spoke  to  me.    It  was  Mr.  Walter  Hartright. 

If  he  had  not  been  the  first  to  greet  me,  I  should  certainly  have  passed 
him.  He  was  so  changed  that  I  hardly  knew  him  again.  His  face  looked 
pale  and  haggard — ^his  manner  was  hurried  and  uncertain — and  his  dress, 
which  I  remembered  as  neat  and  gentlemanlike  when  I  saw  him  at 
Limmeridge,  was  so  slovenly  now,  that  I  should  really  have  been  ashamed 
of  the  appearance  of  it  on  one  of  my  own  clerks. 

"  Have  you  been  long  back  from  Cumberland  ?"  he  asked.  "  I  heard 
from  Miss  Halcombe  lately.  I  am  aware  that  Sir  Percival  Glyde's  ex- 
planation has  been  considered  satisfactory.  Will  the  marriage  take  place 
soon  ?    Do  you  happen  to  know,  Mr.  Gilmore  ?" 

He  spoke  so  fast,  and  crowded  his  questions  together  so  strangely  and 
confusedly  that  I  could  hardly  follow  him.  However  accidentally  intimate 
he  might  have  been  with  the  family  at  Limmeridge,  I  could  not  see  that 
he  had  any  right  to  expect  information  on  their  private  affairs ;  and  ^ 


118  THE  WOMAN  IN  VKITE. 

determined  to  drop  him,  as  easily  as  might  be,  on  the  subject  of  Miss 
Fairlie's  marriage. 

"  Time  will  show,  Mr.  Hartright,"  I  said — "  time  will  show.  I  dare 
Fay  if  we  look  out  for  the  marriage  in  the  papers  we  shall  not  be  fieir 
wrong.  Excuse  my  noticing  it — but  I  am  sorry  to  see  you  not  looking  so 
well  as  you  were  when  we  last  met." 

A  momentary  nervous  contraction  quivered  about  his  lips  and  eyes,  and 
made  me  half  reproach  myself  for  having  answered  him  in  such  a  sig- 
nificantly guarded  manner. 

^  I  had  no  right  to  ask  about  her  marriage,"  he  said,  bitterly.  "  I  must 
wait  to  see  it  in  the  newspapers  like  other  people.  Tes,"  he  went  on, 
before  I  could  make  any  apologies,  **  I  have  not  been  well  lately.  I  am 
going  to  another  country,  to  try  a  change  of  scene  and  occupation.  Miss 
Halcombe  has  kindly  assisted  me  with  her  influence,  and  my  testimonials 
have  been  found  satisfactory.  It  is  a  long  distance  off— but  I  don't  care 
where  I  go,  what  the  climate  is,  or  how  long  1  am  away."  He  looked  about 
him,  while  he  said  this,  at  the  throng  of  strangers  passing  us  by  on  either 
side,  in  a  strange,  suspicious  manner,  as  if  he  thought  that  some  of  ihem 
might  be  watching  us. 

"  I  wish  you  well  through  it,  and  safe  back  again,"  I  said ;  and  tiien 
added,  so  as  not  to  keep  him  altogether  at  arm's  length  on  the  subject  of 
the  Fairlies,  *'  I  am  going  down  to  Limmeridge  to-day  on  business. 
Miss  Halcombe  and  Miss  Fairlie  are  away  just  now,  on  a  visit  to  some 
friends  in  Yorkshire." 

His  eyes  brightened,  and  he  seemed  about  to  say  something  in  answer ; 
but  the  same  momentary  nervous  spasm  crossed  his  face  again.  He  took 
my  hand,  pressed  it  hard,  and  disappeared  among  the  crowd,  without 
saying  another  word.  Though  he  was  little  more  than  a  stranger  to  me, 
I  waited  for  a  moment,  looking  after  him  almost  with  a  feeling  of  regret. 
I  had  gained,  in  my  profession,  sufficient  experience  of  young  men,  to  know 
what  the  outward  signs  and  tokens  were  of  their  beginning  to  go  wrong ; 
and,  when  I  resumed  my  walk  to  the  railway,  I  am  sorry  to  say  I  felt 
more  than  doubtful  about  Mr.  Hartright^  future. 

IV. 
Leavxng  by  an  early  train,  I  got  to  Limmeridge  in  time  for  dinner.  The 
house  was  oppressively  empty  and  dull.  I  had  expected  that  good 
Mrs.  Vesey  would  have  been  company  for  me  in  the  absence  of  the  young 
ladies ;  but  she  was  confined  to  her  room  by  a  cold.  The  servants  were  so 
surprised  at  seeing  me  that  they  hurried  and  bustled  absurdly,  and  made 
all  sorts  of  annoying  mistakes.  Even  the  butler,  who  was  old  enough  to 
have  known  better,  brought  me  a  bottle  of  port  that  was  chilled.  The 
reports  of  Mr.  Fairlie's  health  were  )U8t  as  usual ;  and  when  I  sent  up  a 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  119 

message  to  announce  my  arriYal,  I  was  told  that  he  would  be  delisted  to 
fee  me  the  next  moming,  but  that  the  sudden  nevrs  of  my  appearaooe  had 
prostrated  him  with  palpitations  for  the  rest  of  the  evening.  The  wind 
howled  dismally  all  night,  and  strange  cracking  and  groaning  noisea 
soonded  here,  there,  and  eyeiywhere  in  the  empty  house.  I  slept  aa 
wietchfidly  as  possible ;  and  got  up,  in  a  mighty  bad  humour,  to  breakfiwt 
by  myself  the  next  morning. 

At  ten  o'clock  I  was  conducted  to  Mr.  F^rlie's  apartments.  He  was  in 
Ms  usual  room,  his  usual  chair,  and  his  usual  aggravating  state  of  mind 
and  body.  When  I  went  in,  his  valet  was  standing  before  him,  holding 
up  for  inspection  a  heavy  volume  of  etchings,  as  long  and  as  broad  as  my 
office  writing-desk.  The  miserable  foreigner  grinned  in  the  most  abject 
manner,  and  looked  ready  to  drop  with  &tigue,  while  Ym  master  com- 
posedly turned  over  the  etchings,  and  brought  their  hidden  beautiea  to 
light  with  the  help  of  a  magnifying  glass. 

^*  You  very  best  of  good  old  Mends,"  said  Mr.  Fairlie,  leaning  back 
lazily  before  he  could  look  at  me,  "  are  you  quUe  well  ?  How  nice  of  you 
to  come  here  and  see  me  in  my  solitude.    Dear  Gilmore  T 

I  had  expected  that  the  valet  would  be  dismissed  when  I  appeared ;  but 
nothing  of  the  sort  happened.  There  he  stood,  in  front  of  his  master^s 
chaii,  trembling  under  the  weight  of  the  etchings ;  and  there  Mr.  Fairlie 
sat,  serenely  twirling  die  magnifying  glass  between  his  white  fingers  and 
thumbs. 

"  I  have  come  to  speak  to  you  on  a  very  important  matter,"  I  said ; 
"  and  you  will  therefore  excuse  me,  if  I  suggest  that  we  had  better  be 
alone." 

The  unfortunate  valet  looked  at  me  gratefully.  Mr.  Fairlie  faintly 
repeated  my  Uust  three  words,  "  better  be  alone,"  with  every  appearance  of 
the  utmost  possible  astonishment. 

I  was  in  no  humour  for  trifling ;  and  I  resolved  to  make  him  understand 
what  I  meant. 

**  Oblige  me  by  giving  that  man  permission  to  withdraw,"  I  said,  point- 
ing to  the  viEdet. 

Mr.  Fairlie  arched  his  eyebrows,  and  pursed  up  his  lips,  in  sarcastic 
surprise. 

"Man?"  he  repeated.  **You  provoking  old  Gilmore,  what  can  you 
possibly  mean  by  calling  him  a  man?  He's  nothing  of  the  sort  He 
might  have  been  a  msm  half  an  hour  ago,  before  I  wanted  my  etchings ; 
and  he  may  be  a  man  half  an  hour  hence,  when  I  don't  want  them  any 
longer.  At  present  he  is  simply  a  portfolio  stand.  Why  object,  Gilmore, 
to  a  portfolio  stand?" 

^*l  do  object.    For  the  thilrd  time,  Mr.  Fairlie,  I  beg  that  we  may  be 


120  THE   WOMAN  IN    WHITE. 

My  tone  and  manner  left  him  no  altematiye  but  to  comply  with  my 
request.  He  looked  at  the  seryant,  and  pointed  peevishly  to  a  chair  at  his 
side. 

*'  Put  down  the  etchings  and  go  away,"  he  said.  ^  Don't  upset  me  by 
losing  my  place.  Have  you,  or  have  you  not,  lost  my  place?  Are  you 
sure  you  have  not  f  And  have  you  put  my  hand-bell  quite  vrithin  my 
reach  ?    Yes  ?    Then,  why  the  devil  don't  you  go  ?" 

The  valet  went  out.  Mr.  Fairlie  twisted  himself  round  in  his  chair, 
polished  the  magnifying  glass  with  his  delicate  cambric  handkerchief,  and 
indulged  himself  with  a  sidebng  inspection  of  the  open  volume  of  etchings. 
It  was  not  easy  to  keep  my  temper  under  these  circumstances ;  but  I  did 
keep  it. 

'*  I  have  come  here  at  great  personal  inconvenience,  I  said,  <'  to  serve 
the  inteiests  of  your  niece  and  your  &mily ;  and  I  think  I  have  established 
some  slight  claim  to  be  favoured  with  your  attention  in  retum." 

'<  Don't  bully  me  I"  exclaimed  Mr.  Fairlie,  falling  back  helplessly  in  the 
chair,  and  closing  his  eyes.  **  Please  don't  bully  me.  Fm  not  strong 
enough." 

I  was  determined  not  to  let  him  provoke  me,  for  Laura  Fairlie's 
sake.  ' 

"  My  object,"  I  went  on, "  is  to  entreat  you  to  reoonnder  your  letter,  and 
not  to  force  me  to  abandon  the  just  rights  of  your  niece,  and  of  all  who 
belong  to  her.    Let  me  state  the  case  to  you  once  more,  and  for  the  last 
time." 
Mr.  Fairlie  shook  his  head  and  sighed  piteously. 

**  This  is  heartless  of  you,  Gilmore — ^very  heartless,"  he  said.  "  Never 
mind ;  go  on." 

I  put  all  the  points  to  him  carefully ;  I  set  the  matter  before  him  in 
every  conceivable  light.  He  lay  back  in  the  chair  the  whole  time  I  was 
spei^ng,  with  his  eyes  closed.  When  I  had  done,  he  o^ned  them  indo- 
lently, took  his  silver  smelling-bottle  from  the  table,  and  sniffed  at  it  with 
an  air  of  gentle  relish. 

"  Good  Gilmore  I"  he  said,  between  the  sniflfs,  "how  very  nice  this  is  of 
you !    How  you  reconcile  one  to  human  nature  I" 

"  Give  me  a  plain  answer  to  a  plain  question,  Mr.  Fairlie.    I  tell  you 
again,  Sir  Percival  Glyde  has  no  shadow  of  a  claim  to  expect  more  than 
the  income  of  the  money.    The  money  itself,  if  your  niece  has  no  children 
>ught  to  be  under  her  control,  and  to  retum  to  her  &mily.    If  you  stand 
firm,  Sir  Percival  must  give  way — he  must  give  way,  I  tell  you,  or  he  ex- 
poses himself  to  the  base  imputation  of  marrying  Miss  Fairlie  entirely  from 
mercenary  motives." 
Mr.  Fairlie  shook  the  silver  smelling-bottle  at  me  playfully. 
"  Yon  dear  old  Gilmore;  how  you  do  hate  rank  and  family,  don't  yoa } 


u 


THK   WOMAil   CI   WHITIS.  121 

How  yon  detest  Qlyde,  because  he  happens  to  be  a  baronet.    What  n 
Radical  you  are — oh,  dear  me,  what  a  Badical  you  are  I" 

A  Kadical  II!  I  could  put  up  with  a  good  deal  of  provocation,  but,  after 
holding  the  soundest  Conservative  principles  all  my  life,  I  could  not  put 
up  with  being  called  a  Radical.  My  blood  boiled  at  it — ^I  started  out  of 
my  chair — ^I  was  speechless  with  indignation. 

"Don't  shake  the  room !"  cried  Mr.  Fairlie — **  for  Heaven's  sake,  don't 
shake  the  room  I  Worthiest  of  all  possible  Gilmores,  I  meant  no  offence. 
My  own  views  are  so  extremely  liberal  that  I  think  I  am  a  Radical  myself. 
Yes.  We  are  a  pair  of  Radicals.  Please  don't  be  angry.  I  can't  quarrel 
—I  haven't  stamina  enough.  Shall  we  drop  the  subject?  Yes.  CJonie 
«nd  look  at  these  sweet  etchings.  Do  let  me  teach  you  to  understand  the 
heavenly  pearliness  of  these  lines.    Do,  now,  there's  a  good  Gilmore  I" 

While  he  was  maundering  on  in  this  way  I  was,  fortunately  for  my  own 
self-respect,  returning  to  my  senses.  When  I  spoke  again  I  was  composed 
enough  to  treat  his  impertinence  with  the  silent  contempt  that  it  deserved. 

"  You  are  entirely  wrong,  sir,"  I  said,  "  in  supposing  that  I  speak  fh)m 
any  prejudice  against  Sir  Percival  Glyde.  I  may  regret  that  he  has  so  un- 
reservedly resigned  himself  in  this  matter  to  his  lawyer's  direction  as  to 
make  any  appeal  to  himself  impossible ;  but  I  am  not  prejudiced  against 
him.  What  I  have  said  would  equally  apply  to  any  other  man  in  his 
situation,  high  or  low.  The  principle  I  maintain  is  a  recognised  principle. 
If  you  were  to  apply  at  the  nearest  town  here,  to  the  first  respectable  soli- 
citor you  could  find,  he  would  tell  you,  as  a  stranger,  what  I  tell  you,  as  a 
friend.  He  would  inform,  you  that  it  is  against  all  rule  to  abandon  the 
lady's  money  entirely  to  the  man  she  marries.  He  would  decline,  on 
grounds  of  common  legal  caution,  to  give  the  husband,  under  any  circum- 
stances whatever,  an  interest  of  twenty  thousand  pounds  in  his  wife's 
death." 

«  Would  he  really,  Gilmore  ?"  said  Mr.  Fairlie.  "  If  he  said  anything 
half  so  horrid  I  do  assure  you  I  should  tinkle  my  bell  for  Louis,  and  have 
him  sent  out  of  the  house  inmiediately." 

**  You  shall  not  irritate  me,  Mr.  Fairlie — ^for  your  niece's  sake  and  foi 
her  father's  sake,  you  shall  not  irritate  me.  You  shall  take  the  whole 
responsibility  of  this  discreditable  settlement  on  your  own  shoulders  before 
I  leave  the  room." 

"Don't  I— now  please  don't  I"  said  Mr.  Fairlie.  "  Think  how  precious 
your  time  is,  Gilmore ;  and  don't  throw  it  away.  I  would  dispute  with 
you  if  I  could,  but  I  can't — ^I  haven't  stamina  enough.  You  want  to  upset 
me,  to  upset  yourself,  to  upset  Glyde,  and  to  upset  Laura ;  and— oh,  dear 
me  I— all  for  the  sake  of  the  very  last  thing  in  the  world  that  is  likely 
to  happen.  No,  dear  friend— in  the  interests  of  peace  and  quietness, 
poritively  No  1" 


122  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

'^  I  am  to  understand,  then,  that  you  hold  by  the  determination  expressea 
in  your  letter  ?" 

^*  Yes,  please.  So  glad  we  understand  each  other  at  last.  Sit  dawn 
again— do !" 

I  walked  at  once  to  the  door ;  and  Mr.  Fairlie  resignedly  "  tinkled  '*  his 
hand-bell.  Before  I  left  the  room  I  tum^  round  and  addressed  him  for 
the  last  time. 

"  Whatever  happens  in  the  future,  sir,"  I  said,  "  remember  that  my  plain 
duty  of  warning  you  has  been  performed.  As  the  faithful  friend  and  ser- 
vant of  your  iamily,  I  tell  you,  at  parting,  that  no  daughter  of  mine  should 
be  married  to  any  man  aUve  under  such  a  settlement  as  you  are  forcing  me 
to  make  for  Miss  Fairlie." 

The  door  opened  behind  me,  and  the  valet  stood  waiting  on  the 
threshold. 

**  Louis,"  said  Mr,  Fairlie,  "  show  Mr.  Gilmore  out,  and  then  come  back 
and  hold  up  my  etchings  for  me  again.  Make  them  give  you  a  good  Innch 
down  stairs.  Do,  Gilmore,  make  my  idle  beasts  of  servants  give  you  a 
good  lunch  1" 

I  was  too  much  disgusted  to  reply ;  I  turned  on  my  heel,  and  left  him 
in  silence.  There  was  an  up  train  at  two  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  ;  and 
by  that  train  I  returned  to  London. 

On  the  Tuesday  I  sent  in  the  altered  settlement,  which  practically  dis- 
inherited the  very  persons  whom  Miss  Fairlie's  own  lips  had  informed  me 
she  was  most  anxious  to  benefit.  I  had  no  choice.  Another  lawyer  would 
have  drawn  up  the  deed  if  I  had  refused  to  undertake  it. 

My  task  is  done.  My  personal  share  in  the  events  of  the  family  story 
extends  no  farther  than  the  point  which  I  have  just  reached.  Other  pens 
than  mine  will  describe  the  strange  circumstances  which  are  now  shortly 
to  follow.  Seriously  and  sorrowfully,  I  close  this  brief  Teoord.  Seriously 
and  sorrowfiiUy,  I  repeat  here  the  partii^  words  that  I  spoke  at  Limme- 
ridge  House : — No  daughter  of  mine  should  have  been  married  to  any  man 
alive  imder  such  a  settlement  as  I  was  compelled  to  make  for  Laura 
Fairlie. 

The  End  of  Mr.  GUmore's  Na/naHve. 


THE  WOMAl)   m   WHITE.  123 

The  Story  continued  hy  Mabian  Haloombb,  in  Extracts  from  her  Diary, 

I. 

Limmeiidge  House,  Nov.  Stb. 
•  ♦  •  ♦  •  •J. 

This  morning  Mr.  Gilmore  left  us. 

His  interview  witli  Laura  had  evidently  grieved  and  surprised  him  more 
than  he  liked  to  confess.  I  felt  afraid,  from  his  look  and  manner  when  we 
parted,  that  she  might  have  inadvertently  betrayed  to  him  the  zeal  secret 
of  her  depression  and  my  anxiety.  This  doubt  grew  on  me  so,  after  he 
had  gone,  that  I  declined  riding  out  with  Sir  Percival,  and  went  up  to 
Laura's  room  instead. 

I  have  been  sadly  distmstfal  of  myself,  in  this  difficult  and  lamentable 
matter,  ever  since  I  found  out  my  own  ignorance  of  the  strength  of  Laura's 
unhappy  attachment.  I  ought  to  have  known  that  the  delicacy  and  for- 
hearance  and  sense  of  honour  which  drew  me  to  poor  Hartright,  and  made 
me  so  sincerely  admire  and  respect  him,  were  just  the  qualities  to  appeal 
most  irresistibly  to  Laura's  natural  sensitiveness  and  natural  generosity  of 
nature.  And  yet,  until  she  opened  her  heart  to  mo  of  her  own  accord,  I 
had  no  suspicion  that  this  new  feeling  had  taken  root  so  deeply.  I  once 
thought  time  and  care  might  remove  it.  I  now  fear  that  it  will  remain 
with  her  and  alter  her  for  life.  The  discovery  that  I  have  committed  such 
an  error  in  ju^ment  as  this,  makes  me  hesitate  about  everything  else.  I 
hesitate  about  Sir  Percival,  in  the  face  of  the  plainest  proofs.  I  hesitate 
even  in  speaking  to  Laura.  On  this  very  morning,  I  doubted,  with  my 
hand  on  the  door,  whether  I  should  ask  her  the  questions  I  had  come  to 
put,  or  not. 

When  I  went  into  her  room,  I  found  her  walking  up  and  down  in  great 
impatience.  She  looked  flushed  and  excited ;  and  she  came  forward  at 
once,  and  spoke  to  me  before  I  could  open  my  lips. 

**  I  wanted  you,"  she  said.  **  Come  and  sit  down  on  the  sofa  with  me. 
Marian  I  I  can  bear  this  no  longer — I  must  and  will  end  it." 

There  was  too  much  colour  in  her  cheeks,  too  much  energy  in  her  man- 
ner, too  much  firmness  in  her  voice.  The  little  book  of  Hartright's  draw- 
ings— the  fatal  book  that  she  will  dream  over  whenever  she  is  alone— was 
in  one  of  her  hands.  I  began  by  gently  and  firmly  taking  it  from  her,  and 
putting  it  out  of  sight  on  a  side-table. 

**  Tell  me  quietly,  my  darlmg,  what  you  wish  to  do,"  I  said.  **  Has  Mr 
Gilmore  been  advising  you  T* 

t  The  passages  omitted,  here  and  elsewhere,  m  Miss  Halcombe*8  Diary,  are  only 
those  which  bear  no  reference  to  Miss  Fairlie  or  to  any  of  the  persons  with  whom  she 
if  associated  in  these  pnges. 


124  THE  WOMAN   IN    WHITK. 

She  fihook  her  head.  "  No,  not  in  what  I  am  thinking  of  now.  He  was 
very  kind  and  good  to  me,  Marian, — and  I  am  ashamed  to  say  T  distressed 
him  by  crying.  I  am  miserably  helpless ;  I  can't  control  myself.  For  my 
own  sake  and  for  all  our  sakes,  I  must  have  courage  enough  to  end  it." 

"  Do  you  mean  courage  enough  to  claim  yom*  release?"  I  asked. 

"  No,**  she  said,  simply.    "  Courage,  dear,  to  tell  the  truth.** 

She  put  her  arms  round  my  neck,  and  rested  her  head  quietly  on  my 
boBom.  On  the  opposite  wall  hung  the  miniature  portrait  of  her  father. 
1  betn  over  her,  and  saw  that  she  was  looking  at  it  while  her  head  lay  on 
my  breast. 

"  I  can  never  claim  my  release  from  my  engagement,**  she  went  on. 
"  Whatever  way  it  ends,  it  must  end  wretchedly  for  Tne.  All  I  can  do, 
Marian,  is  not  to  add  the  remembrance  that  I  have  broken  my  promise  and 
forgotten  my  father's  dying  words,  to  make  that  wretchedness  worse." 

"  What  is  it  you  propose,  then  ?*'  I  asked. 

"  To  tell  Sir  Percival  Glyde  the  truth,  with  my  own  lips,**  she  answered, 
**  and  to  let  him  release  me,  if  he  will,  not  because  I  ask  him,  but  because 
he  knows  all.** 

"  What  do  you  mean,  Laura,  by  *  all  ?*  Sir  Percival  will  know  enough 
(he  has  told  me  so  himself)  if  he  knows  that  the  engagement  is  opposed  to 
your  own  wishes." 

"  Can  I  tell  him  that,  when  the  engagement  was  made  for  me  by  my 
father,  with  my  own  consent  ?  I  should  have  kept  my  promise ;  not  hap- 
pily, I  am  afraid,  but  still  contentedly — **  she  stopped,  turned  her  face  to 
me,  and  laid  her  cheek  close  against  mine — *^  I  should  have  kept  my  en- 
gagement, Marian,  if  another  love  had  not  grown  up  in  my  heart,  which 
was  not  there  when  I  first  promised  to  be  Sir  Percival's  wife." 

"  Laura  !  you  will  never  lower  yourself  by  making  a  confession  to  him?" 

"  I  shall  lower  myself,  indeed,  if  I  gain  my  release  by  hiding  from  him 
what  he  has  a  right  to  know." 

"  He  has  not  the  shadow  of  a  right  to  know  it !" 

**  Wrong,  Marian,  wrong  I  I  ought  to  deceive  no  one — least  of  all  the 
man  to  whom  my  father  gave  me,  and  to  whom  I  gave  myself."  She  put 
her  lips  to  mine,  and  kissed  me.  "  My  own  love,"  she  said,  softly,  "  you 
are  so  much  too  fond  of  me  and  so  much  too  proud  of  me,  that  you  forget, 
in  my  case,  what  you  would  remember  in  your  own.  Better  that  Sir  Per- 
cival should  doubt  my  motives  and  misjudge  my  conduct  if  he  will,  than 
that  I  should  be  first  false  to  him  in  thought,  and  then  mean  enough  to 
serve  my  own  interests  by  hiding  the  falsehood." 

I  held  her  away  from  me  in  astonishment.  For  the  first  time  in  our 
lives,  we  had  changed  places;  the  resolution  was  all  on  her  side, the  hesita- 
tion all  on  mine.  I  looked  into  the  pale,  quiet,  resigned  young  face  ;  1 
saw  the  pure,  innocent  heart,  in  the  lovina:  eyes  that  looked  back  at  me— «• 


THE  WOMAN   IN   'WHITK.  126 

«nd  the  poor  worldly  cautions  and  objections  that  rose  to  my  lips, 
dwindled  and  died  away  in  their  own  emptiness.  I  himg  my  head  in 
silence.  In  her  place,  the  despicably  small  pride  which  makes  so  many 
women  deceitful,  would  have  been  my  pride,  and  would  have  made  me 
deceitful,  too. 

"Don't  be  angry  with  me,  Marian,**  she  said,  mistaking  my  silence. 

I  only  answered  by  drawing  her  close  to  me  again.  I  was  afraid  of 
crying  if  I  spoke.  My  tears  do  not  flow  so  easily  as  they  ought — ^they 
come  almost  like  men*8  tears,  with  sobs  that  seem  to  tear  me  in  pieces,  and 
Ihat  frighten  every  one  about  me. 

**I  have  thought  of  this,  love,  for  many  days,"  she  went  on,  twining  and 
twisting  my  hair  with  that  childish  restlessness  in  her  fingers,  which  poor 
Mrs.  Vesey  still  tries  so  patiently  and  so  vainly  to  cure  her  of — "  I  have 
thought  of  it  very  seriously,  and  I  can  be  sure  of  my  courage,  when  my 
own  conscience  tells  me  I  am  right.  Let  me  speak  to  him  to-morrow — ^in 
your  presence,  Marian.  I  will  say  nothing  that  is  wrong,  nothing  that  you 
or  I  need  be  ashamed  of — ^but,  oh,  it  will  ease  my  heart  so  to  end  this 
miserable  concealment !  Only  let  me  know  and  feel  that  I  have  no  decep- 
tion to  answer  for  on  my  side ;  and  then,  when  he  has  heard  what  I  have 
to  say,  let  him  act  towards  me  as  he  will." 

She  sighed,  and  put  her  head  back  in  its  old  position  on  my  bosom.  Sad 
mi^vings  about  what  the  end  would  be,  weighed  upon  my  mind ;  but, 
still  distrusting  myself,  I  told  her  that  I  would  do  as  she  wished.  She 
thanked  me,  and  we  passed  gradually  into  talking  of  other  things. 

At  dinner  she  joined  us  again,  and  was  more  easy  and  more  herself  with 
Sir  Percival,  than  I  have  seen  her  yet.  In  the  evening  she  went  to  the 
piano,  choosing  new  music  of  the  dexterous,  tuneless,  florid  kind.  The 
lovely  old  melodies  of  Mozart,  which  poor  Hartright  was  so  fond  o^  she 
has  never  played  since  he  left.  The  book  is  no  longer  in  the  music-stand. 
She  took  the  volume  away  herself,  so  that  nobody  might  find  it  out  and 
ask  her  to  play  from  it. 

I  had  no  opportunity  of  discovering  whether  her  purpose  of  the  morning 
had  changed  or  not,  until  she  wished  Sir  Percival  good  night — and  then 
her  own  words  informed  me  that  it  was  unaltered.  She  said,  very  quietly, 
that  she  wished  to  speak  to  him,  after  breakfast,  and  that  he  would  find 
her  in  her  sitting-room  with  me.  He  changed  colour  at  those  words,  and  1 
felt  his  hand  trembling  a  little  when  it  came  to  my  turn  to  take  it.  The 
event  of  the  next  morning  would  decide  his  future  life ;  and  he  evidently 
knew  it. 

I  went  in,  as  usual,  through  the  door  between  our  two  bed-rooms,  to 
bid  Laura  good-night  before  she  went  to  sleep.  In  stooping  over  her  to  kisa 
her,  I  saw  the  little  book  of  Hartright*s  drawings  half  hidden  under  her 
pillow,  just  in  the  place  where  she  used  to  hide  her  favourite  toys  wher 


126  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

■he  was  a  child.  I  could  not  find  it  in  my  heart  to  say  anything ;  but  I 
pointed  to  the  book  and  shook  my  head.  She  reached  both  hands  up  to 
my  cheeks,  and  drew  my  face  down  to  hers  till  our  lips  met. 

"  Leave  it  there  to-night,**  she  whispered ;  **  to-morrow  may  be  cruel, 
and  may  make  me  say  good-by  to  it  for  ever.** 

9th. — ^The  first  event  of  the  morning  was  not  of  a  kind  to  raise  my 
spirits ;  a  letter  arrived  for  me,  from  poor  Walter  Hartright.  It  is  the 
answer  to  mine,  describing  the  manner  in  which  Sir  Percival  cleared  himseli 
of  the  suspicions  raised  by  Anne  Catherick's  letter.  He  writes  shortly  and 
bitterly  about  Sir  Percivars  explanations ;  only  saying  that  he  has  no  right 
to  offer  an  opinion  on  the  conduct  of  those  who  are  above  him.  This  is 
sad;  but  his  occasional  references  to  himself  grieve  me  still  more.  He 
says  that  the  effort  to  return  to  his  old  habits  and  pursuits,  grows  harder 
instead  of  easier  to  him,  every  day ;  and  he  implores  me,  if  I  have  any 
interest,  to  exert  it  to  get  him  employment  that  will  necessitate  his  absence 
from  England,  and  take  him  among  new  scenes  and  new  people.  I  have 
been  made  all  the  readier  to  comply  with  this  request,  by  a  passage  at  the 
end  of  his  letter,  which  has  almost  alarmed  me. 

After  mentioning  that  he  has  neither  seen  nor  heard  anything  of  Anne 
Catherick,  he  suddenly  breaks  off,  and  hints  in  the  most  abrupt,  mysterious 
manner,  that  he  has  been  perpetually  watched  and  followed  by  strange 
men  ever  since  he  returned  to  London.  He  acknowledges  that  he  cannot 
prove  this  extraordinary  suspicion  by  fixing  on  any  particular  persons ;  but 
he  declares  that  the  suspicion  itself  is  present  to  him  night  and  day.  Tliis 
has  frightened  me,  because  it  looks  as  if  his  one  fixed  idea  about  Laura 
was  becoming  too  much  for  his  mind.  I  will  write  immediately  to  some 
of  my  mother's  influential  old  friends  in  London,  and  press  his  claims  op 
their  notice.  Change  of  scene  and  change  of  occupation  may  really  be  the 
salvation  of  him  at  this  crisis  in  his  life. 

Greatly  to  my  relief.  Sir  Percival  sent  an  apology  for  not  joining  us  at 
breakJGast.  He  had  taken  an  early  cup  of  coffee  in  his  own  room,  and  he 
was  still  engaged  there  in  writing  letters.  At  eleven  o'clock,  if  that  hour 
was  convenient,  he  would  do  himself  the  honour  of  waiting  on  Miss  Fairlie 
and  Miss  Halcombe. 

My  eyes  were  on  Laura's  face  while  the  message  was  being  delivered.  I 
bad  found  her  unaccountably  quiet  and  composed  on  going'  into  her  room 
in  the  morning  ;  and  so  she  remained  all  through  breakfast.  Even  when 
we  were  sitting  together  on  the  sofa  in  her  room,  waiting  for  Sir  Percival, 
she  still  preserved  her  self-control. 

"Don't  be  afraid  of  me,  Marian,"  was  all  she  said:  "I  may  forget 
myself  with  an  old  friend  like  Mr.  Gilmore,  or  with  a  dear  sister  like  you ; 
but  I  will  not  forget  myself  with  Sir  Peroival  Glyde." 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  127 

I  looked  at  her,  and  listened  to  her  in  silent  sarprifie.  Hmmgh  all  the 
years  of  our  close  intimacy,  this  pasave  force  in  her  character  had  heen 
hidden  from  me — Chidden  even  from  herself  till  love  fonnd  it,  and  snffer- 
ing  called  it  forth. 

As  the  clock  on  the  mantelpiece  struck  eleven,  Sir  Percival  knocked  at 
the  door,  and  came  in.  There  was  suppressed  anxiety  and  agitation  in 
GFery  line  of  his  face.  The  dry,  sharp  cough,  which  teases  him  at  most 
times,  seemed  to  be  troubling  him  more  incessantly  than  ever.  He  sat 
down  opposite  to  ns  at  the  table ;  and  Laura  remained  by  me.  I  looked 
attentively  at  them  both,  and  he  was  the  palest  of  the  two. 

He  said  a  few  unimportant  words,  with  a  visible  effort  to  preserve  his 
cnstomary  ease  of  maimer.  But  his  voice  was  not  to  he  steadied,  and  the 
restless  nneasiness  in  his  eyes  was  not  to  he  concealed.  He  must  have 
felt  this  himself;  for  he  stopped  in  the  middle  of  a  sentence,  and  gave  up 
even  the  attempt  to  hide  his  embarrassment  any  longer. 

There  was  just  one  moment  of  dead  silence  before  Laura  addressed  him. 

"  I  wish  to  speak  to  you,  Sir  Percival,"  she  said,  '*  on  a  subject  that  is 
very  important  to  us  both.  My  sister  is  here,  because  her  presence  helps 
me,  and  gives  me  confidence.  She  has  not  suggested  one  word  of  what  I 
am  going  to  say :  I  speak  from  ^my  own  thoughts,  not  from  hers.  I 
am  sure  you  will  be  kind  enough  to  understand  that,  before  I  go  any 
farther?*   . 

Sir  Percival  bowed.  She  had  proceeded  thus  far,  with  perfect  outward 
tranquillity,  and  perfect  propriety  of  maimer.  She  looked  at  him,  and  he 
looked  at  her.  They  seemed,  at  the  outset  at  leasts  resolved  to  understand 
one  another  plainly. 

"  I  have  heard  from  Marian,**  she  went  on,  "  that  I  have  only  to  claim 
my  release  from  our  engagement,  to  obtain  that  release  from  you.  It  was 
forbearing  and  generous  on  your  part,  Sir  Percival,  to  send  me  such  a 
message.  It  is  only  doing  you  justice  to  say  that  I  am  grateful  for  the 
ofifer ;  and  I  hope  and  believe  that  it  is  only  doing  myself  justice  to  tell 
you  that  I  decline  to  accept  it." 

His  attentive  face  relaxed  a  little.  But  I  saw  one  of  his  feet,  softly, 
quietly,  incessantly  beating  on  the  carpet  under  the  table ;  and  I  felt  that 
he  was  secretly  as  anxious  as  ever. 

"  I  have  not  forgotten,"  she  said,  "  that  you  asked  my  father's  permis- 
sion before  you  honoured  me  with  a  proposal  of  marriage.  Perhaps,  you 
have  not  forgotten,  either,  what  I  said  when  I  consented  to  our  engage- 
ment?  I  ventured  to  tell  you  that  my  father's  influence  and  advice  had 
mainly  decided  me  to  give  you  my  promise.  I  was  guided  by  my  father, 
because  I  had  always  found  him  the  truest  of  all  advisers,  the  best  and 
fondest  of  all  protectors  and  friends.  I  have  lost  him  now ;  I  have  only 
his  memory  to  love ;  but  my  &ith  in  that  dear  dead  Mend  has  never  been 


128  THE  WOW  AN  IK  WHITE. 

sLakoD.  I  believe,  at  this  moment,  as  truly  as  I  ever  believed,  that  ht 
knew  what  was  best,  and  that  his  hopes  and  wishes  ought  to  be  my  hopes 
and  wishes  too." 

Her  voice  trembled,  for  the  first  time.  Her  restless  fingers  stole  their 
way  into  my  lap,  and  held  fast  by  one  of  my  hands.  There  was  another 
moment  of  silence ;  and  then  Sir  Percival  spoke. 

**  May  I  ask,'*  he  said,  "  if  I  have  ever  proved  myself  unworthy  of  the 
trust,  which  it  has  been  hitherto  my  greatest  honour  and  greatest  happiness 
to  possess  ?" 

**  I  have  found  nothing  in  your  conduct  to  blame,"  she  answered.  **  You 
have  always  treated  me  with  the  same  delicacy  and  the  same  forbearance. 
You  have  deserved  my  trust ;  and,  what  is  of  far  more  importance  in  my 
estimation,  you  have  deserved  my  fother's  trust,  out  of  which  mine  grew. 
You  have  given  me  no  excuse,  even  if  I  had  wanted  to  find  one,  for  asking 
to  be  released  from  my  pledge.  What  I  have  said  so  far,  has  been  spoken 
with  the  wish  to  acknowledge  my  whole  obligation  to  you.  My  regard  for 
that  obligation,  my  regard  for  my  father's  memory,  and  my  regard  for  my 
own  promise,  all  forbid  me  to  set  the  example,  on  my  side,  of  withdrawing 
from  our  present  position.  The  breaking  of  our  engagement  must  be 
entirely  your  wish  and  your  act,  Sir  Percival — ^not  mine." 

The  imeasy  beating  of  his  foot  suddenly  stopped ;  and  he  leaned  forward 
eagerly  across  the  table. 

**  My  act  ?"  ho  said.  **  What  reason  can  there  be,  on  my  side,  for  with- 
drawing ?" 

I  heard  her  breath  quickening ;  I  felt  her  hand  growing  cold.  In  spite  of 
wliat  she  had  said  to  me,  when  we  were  alone,  I  began  to  be  afraid  of  her. 
I  was  wrong. 

"  A  reason  that  it  is  very  hard  to  tell  you,"  she  answered.  **  There  is  a 
change  in  me.  Sir  Percival — a  change  which  is  serious  enough  to  justify 
you,  to  yourself  and  to  me,  in  breaking  off  our  engagement." 

His  &ce  turned  so  pale  again,  that  even  his  lips  lost  their  colour.  He 
raised  the  arm  which  lay  on  the  table ;  turned  a  little  away  in  his  chair ; 
and  supported  his  head  on  his  hand,  so  that  his  profile  only  was  presented 
to  us. 

**  What  change  ?"  he  asked.  The  tone  in  which  he  put  the  questjon 
jurred  on  me — ^there  was  something  painfully  suppressed  in  it. 

She  sighed  heavily,  and  leaned  towards  me  a  little,  so  as  to  rest  her 
shoulder  against  mine.  I  felt  her  trembling,  and  tried  to  spare  her  by 
speaking  myself.  She  stopped  me  by  a  waroing  pressure  of  her  hand,  and 
then  addressed  Sir  Percival  once  more  ;  but,  this  time,  without  looking  at 
him. 

'*  I  have  heard,"  she  said,  "  and  I  believe  it,  that  the  fondest  and  traest 
of  all  affections  is  the  affection  which  a  woman  ought  to  bear  to  her  husbana 


THE  WOMAN  UT  WHITE.  129 

When  oar  engagement  began,  that  affection  was  mine  to  give,  if  I  conld, 
and  years  to  win,  if  you  could.  Will  you  pardon  me,  and  spare  me,  Sh 
Pereival,  if  I  acknowledge  that  it  is  not  so  any  longer?^ 

A  few  tears  gathered  in  her  eyes,  and  dropped  over  her  checks  slowly,  as 
she  paused  and  waited  for  his  answer.  He  did  not  utter  a  word.  At  the 
beginning  of  her  reply,  he  had  moved  the  hand  on  which  his  head  rested, 
80  that  it  hid  his  face.  I  saw  nothing  but  the  upper  part  of  his  figure  at 
the  table.  Not  a  muscle  of  him  moved.  The  fingers  of  the  hand  which 
supported  his  head  were  dented  deep  in  his  hair.  They  might  have  ex- 
pressed hidden  anger,  or  hidden  grief — ^it  was  hard  to  say  which — there 
was  no  significant  trembling  in  them.  There  was  nothing,  absolutely 
nothing  to  tell  the  secret  of  his  thoughts  at  that  moment — the  moment 
which  was  the  crisis  of  his  life  and  the  crisis  of  hers. 

I  was  determined  to  make  him  declare  himself,  for  Laura's  sake. 

**  Sir  Pereival  !**  1  interposed,  sharply,  "  have  you  nothing  to  say,  when 
my  sister  has  said  so  much  ?  More,  in  my  opinion,"  I  added,  my  unlucky 
temper  getting  the  better  of  me,  "  than  any  man  alive,  in  your  position, 
has  a  right  to' hear  from  her." 

That  last  rash  sentence  opened  a  way  for  him  by  which  to  escape  me  if 
be  chose ;  and  he  instantly  took  advantage  of  it. 

"  Pardon  me.  Miss  Halcombe,"  he  said,  still  keeping  his  hand  over  his 
fiuje — "  pardon  me,  if  I  remind  you  that  I  have  claimed  no  such  right." 

The  few  plain  words  which  would  have  brought  him  back  to  the  point 
irom  which  he  had  wandered,  were  just  on  my  lips,  when  Laura  checked 
316  by  speaking  again. 

"  I  hope  I  have  not  made  my  painful  acknowledgment  in  vain,"  she  con- 
tinued. "  I  hope  it  has  secured  me  your  entire  confidence  in  what  I  have 
still  to  say  ?* 

**  Pray  be  assured  of  it."  He  made  that  brief  reply,  warmly ;  dropping 
his  hand  on  the  table,  while  he  spoke,  and  turning  towards  us  again. 
Whatever  outward  change  had  passed  over  him,  was  gone  now.  His  face 
was  eager  and  expectant — ^it  expressed  nothing  but  the  most  intense  anxiety 
to  hear  her  next  words. 

"I  wish  you  to  understand  that  I  have  not  spoken  from  any  selfish 
motive,"  she  said.  "  If  you  leave  me.  Sir  Pereival,  after  what  you  have 
just  heard,  you  do  not  leave  me  to  marry  another  man — you  only  allow  me 
to  remain  a  single  woman  for  the  rest  of  my  life.  My  fault  towards  you 
has  begun  and  ended  in  my  own  thoughts.    It  can  never  go  any  farther. 

Ko  word  has  passed ^    She  hesitated,  in  doubt  about  the  expression 

she  should  use  next ;  hesitated,  in  a  momentary  confusion  which  it  was 
very  sad  and  very  painful  to  see.  "  No  word  has  passed,"  she  patiently 
wd  resolutely  resumed,  "  between  myself  and  the  person  to  whom  I  am 
ci'>w  referring  for  the  first  and  last  time  in  your  presence,  ot  my  feelings 


230  tHB   WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

towards  him,  or  of  his  feelings  towards  me — no  word  ever  can  pass-^ 
neither  he  nor  I  are  likely,  in  this  world,  to  meet  again.  I  earnestly  beg 
you  to  spare  me  from  saying  any  more,  and  to  believe  me,  on  my  word,  in 
what  I  have  just  told  you.  It  is  the  truth,  Sir  Percival — ^the  truth  which 
I  think  my  promised  husband  has  a  claim  to  hear,  at  any  sacrifice  of  my 
own  feelings.  I  trust  to  his  generosity  to  pardon  me,  and  to  his  honour  to 
keep  my  secret." 

''  Both  those  trusts  are  sacred  to  me,''  he  said,  "  and  both  shall  be 
sacredly  kept." 

After  answering  in  those  terms,  he  paused,  and  looked  at  her,  as  if  he 
was  waiting  to  hear  more. 

"  I  have  said  all  I  wish  to  say,"  she  added,  quietly — "  I  have  said  more 
than  enough  to  justify  you  in  withdrawing  from  your  engagement." 

"  You  have  said  more  than  enough,"  he  answered,  "  to  make  it  the 
dearest  object  of  my  like  to  /ceep  the  engagement."  With  those  words  he 
rose  from  his  chair,  and  advanced  a  few  steps  towards  the  place  where  she 
was  sitting. 

She  started  violently,  and  a  faint  cry  of  surprise  escaped  her.  Every 
word  she  had  spoken  had  innocently  betrayed  her  purity  and  truth  to  a 
man  who  thoroughly  understood  the  priceless  value  of  a  pure  and  true 
woman.  Her  own  noble  conduct  had  been  the  hidden  enemy,  throughout, 
of  all  the  hopes  she  had  trusted  to  it.  I  had  dreaded  this  from  the  first. 
I  would  have  prevented  it,  if  she  had  allowed  me  the  smallest  chance  of 
doing  so.  I  even  waited  and  watched,  now,  when  the  harm  was  done,  for 
a  word  from  Sir  Percival  that  would  give  me  the  opportunity  of  putting 
him  in  the  wrong. 

"  You  have  left  it  to  we.  Miss  Fairlie,  to  resign  you,"  he  continued.  **  I 
am  not  heartless  enough  to  resign  a  woman  who  has  just  shown  herself  to 
be  the  noblest  of  her  sex." 

He  spoke  with  such  warmth  and  feeling,  with  such  passionate  enthusiasm 
and  yet  with  such  perfect  delicacy,  that  she  raised  her  head,  flushed  up  a 
little,  and  looked  at  him  with  sudden  animation  and  spirit. 

"  No  I"  she  said,  firmly.  "The  most  wretched  of  her  sex,  if  she  must 
give  herself  in  marriage  when  she  cannot  give  her  love." 

"May  she  not  give  it  in  the  future,"  he  asked,  "if  the  one  object  of  her 
husband's  life  is  to  deserve  it  ?" 

"Never I"  she  answered.  "If  you  still  persist  in  maintaining  our 
engagement,  I  may  be  your  true  and  faithful  wife,  Sir  Percival — your 
loving  wife,  if  I  know  my  own  heart,  never !" 

She  looked  so  irresistibly  beautiful  as  she  said  those  brave  words  that  no 
man  alive  could  have  steeled  his  heart  against  her.  I  tried  hard  to  feel 
that  Sir  Percival  was  to  blame,  and  to  say  so '  but  my  womanhood  would 
pity  him,  in  spite  of  my«elf. 


THE  WOMAN   IN  WHTTB.  181 

"I  gratefully  hocept  yonr  faith  and  trath,"  he  said.    "  The  least  that 

yen  can  offer  is  more  to  me  than  the  utmost  that  I  could  hope  for  from  any 
other  woman  in  the  world." 

Her  left  hand  still  held  mine ;  hut  her  right  hand  hung  listlessly  at  her 
side.  He  raised  it  gently  to  his  lips — touched  it  with  them,  rather  than 
kissed  it — ^bowed  to  me— and  then,  with  perfect  delicacy  and  discretion, 
silently  quitted  the  room. 

She  neither  moyed,  nor  said  a  word,  when  he  was  gone-Hshe  sat  by  me^ 
cold  and  still,  with  her  eyes  fixed  on  the  ground.  I  saw  it  was  hopeless 
aod  useless  to  speak ;  and  I  only  put  my  arm  round  her,  and  held  her  to 
me  in  silence.  We  remained  together  so,  for  what  seemed  a  long  and 
weary  time — so  long  and  so  weary,  that  J  grew  uneasy  and  spoke  to  her 
softly,  in  the  hope  of  producing  a  change. 

The  sound  of  my  voice  seemed  to  startle  her  into  consciousness.  She 
suddenly  drew  herself  away  from  me,  and  rose  to  her  feet. 

**!  must  submit,  Maiian,  as  well  as  I  can,"  she  said.  **  My  new  life  has 
its  hard  duties ;  and  one  of  them  begins  to-day." 

As  she  spoke,  she  went  to  a  side-table  near  the  window,  on  which  her 
sketching  materials  were  placed ;  gathered  them  together  carefully ;  and 
put  them  in  a  drawer  of  her  cabinet.  She  locked  the  drawer,  and  brought 
the  key  to  me. 

"I  must  part  from  everythii^  that  reminds  me  of  him,"  she  said. 
"Keep  the  key  wherever  you  please— I  shall  never  want  it  again." 

Before  I  could  say  a  word,  she  had  turned  away  to  her  bookcase,  and 
had  taken  from  it  the  album  that  contained  Walter  Hartright'e  drawings. 
She  hesitated  for  a  moment,  holding  the  little  volume  fondly  in  her  hands 
—then  lifted  it  to  her  lips  and  kissed  it. 

**  Oh,  Laura  I  Laura  I"  I  said,  not  angrily,  not  reprovingly — ^with  nothing 
but  sorrow  in  my  voice,  and  nothing  but  sorrow  in  my  heart. 

"  It  is  the  last  time,  Marian,"  she  pleaded.  **  I  am  bidding  it  good-by 
for  ever." 

She  laid  the  book  on  liie  table,  and  drew  out  the  comb  that  fastened  her 
^air.  It  fell,  in  its  matchless  beauty,  over  her  back  and  shoulders,  and 
iropped  round  her,  far  below  her  waist.  She  separated  one  long,  thin  lock 
trom  the  rest,  cut  it  off,  and  pinned  it  carefully,  in  the  form  of  a  circle,  on 
the  first  blank  page  of  the  album.  The  moment  it  was  fastened,  she  closed 
the  volume  hurriedly,  and  placed  it  in  my  hands. 

*'  You  write  to  him,  and  he  writes  to  you,"  she  said,  **  While  I  am 
alive,  if  he  asks  after  me,  always  teli  him  I  am  well,  and  never  say  I 
am  unhappy.  Don't  distress  him,  Marian — for  my  sake,  don't  distress 
him.  If  I  die  first,  promise  you  will  give  him  this  little  book  of  his 
drawings,  with  my  hair  in  it.  There  can  be  no  harm,  when  I  am  gone, 
in  telling  him  that  X  put  it  there  with  my  own  hands.    And  say — oh. 


132  THB  WOMAN  JN   WHITE. 

Marian,  say  for  me,  then,  what  I  can  never  say  for  myaclf— say  1  bvctl 

liml" 

She  flung  her  arms  romid  my  neck,  and  whispered  the  last  words  in  my 
ear  with  a  passionate  delight  in  uttering  them  which  it  ahnost  broke  my 
heart  to  hear.  All  the  long  restraint  she  had  imposed  on  herself,  gave  way 
in  that  first  last  outburst  of  tendeme&\  She  broke  from  me  with  hysteri- 
cal vehemence,  and  threw  herself  on  the  sofa,  in  a  paroxysm  of  sobs  and 
tears  that  shook  her  from  head  to  foot. 

I  tried  vainly  to  soothe  her  and  reason  with  her ;  she  was  past  being 
soothed,  and  past  being  reasoned  with.  It  was  the  sad,  sudden  end  for  us 
two,  of  this  memorable  day.  When  the  fit  had  worn  itself  out,  she  was 
too  exhausted  to  speak.  She  slumbered  towards  the  afternoon ;  and  I  put 
away  the  book  of  drawings  so  that  she  might  not  see  it  when  she  woke. 
My  face  was  calm,  whatever  my  heart  might  be,  when  she  opened  her  eyec 
again  and  looked  at  me.  We  said  no  more  to  each  other  about  the  dis- 
tressing interview  of  the  morning.  Sir  Percivars  name  was  not  mentioned. 
Walter  Hartright  was  not  alluded  to  again  by  either  of  us  for  the  remainder 
of  the  day. 

10th. — ^Finding  that  she  was  composed  and  like  herself,  this  morning,  I 
etumed  to  the  painful  subject  of  yesterday,  for  the  sole  purpose  of  implor- 
ing her  to  let  me  speak  to  Sir  Percival  and  Mr.  Fairlie,  more  plainly  and 
strongly  than  she  could  speak  to  either  of  them  herself^  about  this  lament- 
able marriage.  She  interposed,  gently  but  firmly,  in  the  middle  of  my 
remonstrances. 

^  I  left  yesterday  to  decide,"  she  said ;  **  and  yesterday  has  decided.  It 
is  too  late  to  go  back." 

Sir  Percival  spoke  tome  this  afternoon,  about  what  had  passed  in  Laura's 
room.  He  assured  me  that  the  unparalleled  trust  she  had  placed  in  him 
had  awakened  such  an  answering  conviction  of  her  innocence  and  integrity 
an  his  mind,  that  he  was  guiltless  of  having  felt  even  a  moment's  unworthy 
jealousy,  either  at  the  time  when  he  was  in  her  presence,  or  afterwards 
when  he  had  withdrawn  from  it.  Deeply  as  he  lamented  the  unfortunate 
%ttachment  which  had  hindered  the  progress  he  might  otherwise  have 
made  in  her  esteem  and  regard,  he  firmly  believed  that  it  had  remained 
nnacknowledged  in  the  past,  and  that  it  would  remain,  under  all  changes 
of  circumstance  which  it  was  possible  to  contemplate,  unacknowledged  in 
the  future.  This  was  his  absolute  conviction ;  and  the  strongest  proof  he 
oould  give  of  it  was  the  assurance,  which  he  now  offered,  that  he  felt  no 
curiosity  to  know  whether  the  attachment  was  of  recent  date  or  not,  or 
who  had  been  the  object  of  it.  His  implicit  confidence  in  Miss  Fairlie 
made  him  satisfied  with  what  she  had  thought  fit  to  say  to  him,  and  he 
rns  honestly  innocent  of  the  slightest  feeling  of  anxiety  to  hear  moro. 


THE  WOMA.V   IN   WHITK.  133 

He  waited,  after  saying  those  words,  and  looked  at  me.  I  was  so  oon 
sdous  of  my  unreasonable  prejudice  against  him — so  conscious  of  an  uu 
worthy  suspicion,  that  he  might  he  speculating  en  my  impulsively  answer- 
ing the  very  questions  which  he  had  just  described  himself  as  resolved  not 
u)  ask — that  I  evaded  all  reference  to  this  part  of  the  subject  with  somc- 
thlDg  like  a  feeling  of  confusion  on  my  own  part.  At  die  same  time,  1 
was  resolved  not  to  lose  even  the  smallest  opportunity  of  trying  to  plead 
Laura's  cause  ;  and  I  told  him  boldly  that  I  regretted  his  generosity  had 
not  carried  him  one  step  farther,  and  induced  him  to  withdraw  from  the 
engagement  altogether. 

Here,  again,  he  disarmed  me  by  not  attempting  to  defend  himself.  He 
would  merely  beg  me  to  remember  the  difference  there  was  between  his 
allowing  Miss  Fairlie  to  give  him  up,  which  was  a  matter  of  submission 
only,  and  his  forcing  himself  to  give  up  Miss  Fairlie,  which  was,  in  other 
words,  asking  him  to  be  the  suicide  of  his  own  hopes.  Her  conduct  of  the 
day  before  had  so  strengthened  the  unchangeable  love  and  admiration  of 
two  long  years,  that  all  active  contention  against  those  feelings,  on  his  part^ 
was  henceforth  entirely  out  of  his  power.  I  must  think  him  weak,  selfish, 
unfeeling  towards  the  very  woman  whom  he  idolised,  and  he  must  bow  to 
my  opinion  as  resignedly  as  he  could  ;  only  putting  it  to  me,  at  the  same 
time,  whether  her  future  as  a  single  woman,  pining  under  an  unhappily 
placed  attachment  which  she  could  never  acknowledge,  could  be  said  to 
promise  her  a  much  brighter  prospect  than  her  future  as  the  wife  of  a  man 
who  worshipped  the  very  ground  she  walked  on  ?  In  the  last  case  there 
was  hope  from  time,  however  slight  it  might  be — ^in  the  first  case,  on  her 
own  showing,  there  was  no  hope  at  all. 

I  answered  him — more  because  my  tongue  is  a  woman's,  and  must 
answer,  than  because  I  had  anything  convincing  to  say.  It  was  only  too 
plain  that  the  course  Laura  had  adopted  the  day  before,  had  offered  him 
the  advantage  if  he  chose  to  take  it — ^and  that  he  had  chosen  to  take  it.  I 
felt  this  at  the  time,  and  I  feel  it  just  as  strongly  now,  while  I  write  these 
lines,  in  my  own  room.  The  one  hope  left,  is  that  his  motives  really 
spring,  as  he  says  they  do,  from  the  irresistible  strength  of  his  attachment 
to  Laura. 

Before  I  close  my  diary  for  to-night,  I  must  record  that  I  wrote  to- 
day in  poor  Hartright's  interests,  to  two  of  my  mother's  old  friends  in 
London — both  men  of  influence  and  position.  If  they  can  do  any- 
iiing  for  him,  I  am  quite  sure  they  will.  Except  Laura,  I  never  was 
more  anxious  about  any  one  than  I  am  now  about  Walter.  All  that 
has  happened  since  he  left  us  has  only  increa3ed  my  strong  regard  and 
sympathy  for  him.  I  hope  I  am  doing  right  in  trying  to  help  him  to 
employment  abroad — ^I  hope,  most  earnestly  and  anxiously,  that  it  will 
end  welL 


134  THE   WOMAN  IN   WHITfi 

11th. — Sir  Percival  had  an  interview  with  Mr.  Fairlie;  and  1  was  sent 
for  to  join  them. 

I  found  Mr.  Fairlie  greatly  relieved  at  the  prospect  of  the  "family 
worry  "  (as  he  was  pleased  to  describe  his  niece's  marriage)  being  settled 
at  last  So  far,  I  did  not  feel  called  on  to  say  anything  to  him  about  my 
own  opinion ;  but  when  he  proceeded,  in  his  most  aggravatingly  languid 
manner,  to  suggest  that  the  time  for  the  marriage  liad  better  be  settled 
next,  in  accordance  with  Sir  Percival's  wishes,  I  enjoyed  the  satisfeKstion  of 
assailing  Mr.  Fairlie^s  nerves  with  as  strong  a  protest  against  hurrying 
Laura's  decision  as  I  could  put  into  words.  Sir  Percival  immediately 
assured  mo  that  he  felt  the  force  of  my  objection,  and  begged  me  to  believe 
that  the  proposal  had  not  been  made  in  consequence  of  any  interference  on 
his  part.  Mr.  Fairlie  leaned  back  in  his  chair,  closed  his  eyes,  said  we  both 
of  us  did  honour  to  human  nature,  and  then  repeated  his  suggestion,  as 
coolly  as  if  neither  Sir  Percival  nor  I  had  said  a  word  in  opposition  to  it. 
It  ended  in  my  flatly  declining  to  mention  the  subject  to  Laura,  unless  she 
first  approached  it  of  her  own  accord.  I  left  the  room  at  once  after  making 
that  declaration.  Sir  Percival  looked  seriously  embarrassed  and  distressed. 
Mr.'  Fairlie  stretched  out  his  lazy  legs  on  his  velvet  footstool ;  and  said : 
"  Dear  Marian  I  how  I  envy  you  your  robust  nervous  system  I  Don't  bang 
the  door  I" 

On  going  to  Laura's  room,  I  found  that  she  had  asked  for  me,  and  that 
Mrs.  Yesey  had  informed  her  that  I  was  with  Mr.  Fairlie.  She  inquired 
at  once  what  I  had  been  wanted  for ;  and  I  told  her  all  that  had  passed^ 
without  attempting  to  conceal,  the  vexation  and  annoyance  that  I  really 
felt.  Her  answer  surprised  and  distressed  me  inexpressibly;  it  was  the 
very  last  reply  that  I  should  have  expected  her  to  make. 

''My  uncle  is  right,**  she  said.  ''I  have  caused  trouble  and  anxiety 
enough  to  you,  and  to  all  about  me.  Let  me  cause  no  more,  Marian — ^let 
Sir  Percival  decide." 

I  remonstrated  warmly :  but  nothing  that  I  could  say  moved  her. 

**  I  am  held  to  my  engagement,"  she  replied ;  "  I  have  broken  with  my 
old  life.  The  evil  day  will  not  come  the  less  surely  because  I  put  it  off. 
No,  Marian  I  once  again,  my  uncle  is  right.  I  have  caused  trouble  euoagh 
and  anxiety  enough ;  ana  I  will  cause  no  more." 

She  used  to  be  pliability  itself ;  but  she  was  now  inflexibly  passive  in 
her  resignation — ^I  might  almost  say  in  her  despair.  Dearly  as  I  love  her, 
X  dbiould  have  been  less  pained  if  she  had  been  violently  agitated ;  it  was 
so  shockingly  unlike  her  natural  character  to  see  her  as  cold  and  insensible 
as  I  saw  her  now. 

12th. — Sir  Percival  put  some  questions  to  me,  at  breakfast,  about  Laura, 
which  left  me  no  choice  but  to  tell  him  what  she  had  said. 


rUE  WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  135 

While  we  were  talking,  she  herself  came  down  and  joined  ns.  She  was 
just  as  unnaturally  composed  in  Sir  Percivars  presence  as  she  had  been  in 
mine.  When  breakfast  was  over,  he  had  an  opportunity  of  saying  a  few 
words  to  her  privately,  in  a  recess  of  one  of  the  windows.  They  were  not 
more  than  two  or  three  minutes  together ;  and,  on  their  separating,  she 
left  the  room  with  Mrs.  Vesey,  while  Sir  Percival  came  to  me.  He  said 
he  had  entreated  her  to  favour  him  by  maintaining  her  privilege  of  fixing 
the  time  for  the  marriage  at  her  own  wiU  and  pleasure.  In  reply,  she  had 
merely  expressed  her  acknowledgments,  and  had  desired  him  to  mention 
what  his  wishes  were  to  Miss  Halcombe. 

I  have  no  patience  to  write  more.  In  this  instance,  as  in  every  other.  Sir 
Percival  has  carried  his  xx)int,  with  the  utmost  possible  credit  to  himself, 
in  spite  of  everything  that  I  can  say  or  do.  His  wishes  are  now.  what  they 
were,  of  course,  when  he  first  came  here ;  and  Laura  having  resigned 
herself  to  the  one  inevitable  sacrifice  of  the  marriage,  remains  as  coldly 
hopeless  and  enduring  as  ever.  In  parting  with  the  little  occupations  and 
relics  that  reminded  her  of  Hartright,  she  seems  to  have  parted  with  all  her 
tenderness  and  all  her  impressibility.  It  is  only  three  o'clock  in  the  afternoon, 
while  I  write  these  lines,  and  Sir  Percival  has  left  us  already,  in  the 
happy  hurry  of  a  bridegroom,  to  prepare  for  the  bride's  reception  at  his 
house  in  Hampshire.  Unless  some  extraordinary  event  happens  to  prevent 
it,  they  will  be  married  exactly  at  the  time  when  he  wished  to  he 
married — before  the  end  of  the  year.    My  very  fingers  bum  as  I  write  it  I 

13th. — A  sleepless  night,  through  uneasiness  about  Laura.  Towards 
the  morning,  I  came  to  a  resolution  to  try  what  change  of  scene  would  do 
to  rouse  her.  She  cannot  surely  remain  in  her  present  torpor  of  insensi- 
bility, if  1  take  her  away  from  Limmeridge  and  surround  her  with  the 
pleasant  faces  of  old  friends?  After  some  consideration,  I  decided  on 
writing  to  the  Arnolds,  in  Yorkshire.  They  are  simple,  kind-hearted, 
hospitable  people ;  and  she  has  known  them  from  her  childhood.  When  I 
had  put  the  letter  in  the  post-bag,  I  told  her  what  I  had  done.  It  would 
have  been  a  relief  to  me  if  she  had  shown  the  spirit  to  resist  and  object. 
But  no— she  only  said,  "  I  will  go  anywhere  with  yow,  Marian.  I  dare 
iay  you  are  right — ^1  dare  say  the  change  will  do  me  good.** 

14th. — ^I  wrote  to  Mr.  Gilmore,  informing  him  that  there  was  really  a 
prospect  of  this  miserable  marriage  taking  place,  and  also  mentioning  my 
idea  of  trying  what  change  of  scene  would  do  for  Laura.  I  had  no  heart  to 
go  into  particulars.  Time  enough  for  them,  when  we  get  nearer  to  the  end 
of  the  year. 

16th.— Three  letters  for  me.    The  first,  firom  the  Arnolds,  full  of 


136  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

delight  at  tlie  prospect  of  seeing  Laura  and  me.  The  second,  from  out 
of  the  gentlemen  to  whom  I  wrote  on  Walter  Hartright's  behalf,  informing 
me  that  he  has  heen  fortunate  enough  to  find  an  opportunity  of  complying 
with  my  request.  The  third,  from  Walter  himself ;  thanking  me,  poor 
fellow,  in  the  warmest  terms,  for  giving  him  an  opportunity  of  leaving  his 
home,  his  country,  and  his  friends.  A  private  expedition  to  mako  excava- 
tions among  the  ruined  cities  of  Central  America  is,  it  seems,  about  to  sail 
from  Liverpool.  The  draughtsman  who  had  been  already  appointed  to 
accompany  it,  has  lost  heart,  and  withdrawn  at  the  eleventh  hour ;  and 
Walter  is  to  fill  his  place.  He  is  to  be  engaged  for  six  months  certain, 
from  the  time  of  the  landing  in  Honduras,  and  for  a  year  afterwards,  if  the 
excavations  are  successful,  and  if  the  funds  hold  out.  His  letter  ends  with 
a  promise  to  write  me  a  farewell  line,  when  they  are  all  on  board  ship,  and 
when  the  pilot  leaves  them.  I  can  only  hope  and  pray  earnestly  that  he 
and  I  are  both  acting  in  this  matter  for  the  best.  It  seems  such  a  serious 
step  for  him  to  take,  that  the  mere  contemplation  of  it  startles  me. 
And  yet,  in  his  unhappy  position,  how  can  I  expect  him,  or  wish  him,  to 
remain  at  home  ? 

16th. — The  carriage  is  at  the  door.  Laura  and  I  set  out  on  our  visit  to 
the  Arnolds  to-day. 

Polesdean  Lodge,  Yorkshire. 
23rd. — A  week  in  these  new  scenes  and  among  tliese  kind-hearted 
people  has  done  her  some  good,  though  not  so  much  as  I  had  hoped.  J 
have  resolved  to  prolong  our  stay  for  another  week  at  least.  It  is  useless 
to  go  back  to  Limmeridge,  till  there  is  an  absolute  necessity  for  our 
return. 

24th  — Sad  news  by  this  morning's  post.  The  expedition  to  Central 
America  sailed  on  the  twenty-first.  We  have  parted  with  a  true  man ; 
we  have  lost  a  faithful  friend.    Walter  Hartright  has  left  England. 

25th. — Sad  news  yesterday ;  ominous  news  to-day.  Sir  Percival  Glyde 
has  written  to  Mr.  Fairlie  ;  and  Mr.  Fairlie  has  written  to  Laura  and  me^ 
to  recall  us  to  Limmeridge  immediately. 

What  can  this  mean  ?  Has  the  day  for  the  marriage  been  fixed  in  cm 
absenoe  ? 


THE  WOM^N  IN   WHITE.  137 

II. 

Litflineridge  Hoil<%, 

KovEXBEB  ^/th. — My  forebodingis  are  realized.    The  marriage  is  fixed  for 

the  twenty-second  of  December. 

The  day  after  we  left  for  Polesdean  Lodge,  Sir  Pcrcival  wrote,  it  seems, 
to  Mr.  Fairlie,  to  say  that  the  necessary  repairs  and  alterations  in  his 
house  in  Hampshire  would  occupy  a  much  longer  time  in  completion  than 
he  had  originally  anticipated.  The  proper  estimates  were  to  be  submitted 
to  bun  as  soon  as  possible ;  and  it  would  greatly  facilitate  his  entering 
into  definite  arrangements  with  the  workpeople,  if  he  could  be  informed  of 
the  exact  period  at  which  the  wedding  ceremony  might  be  expected  to  take 
place.  He  could  then  make  all  his  calculations  in  reference  to  time,  besides 
writing  the  necessary  apologies  to  friends  who  had  been  engaged  to  visit 
him  that  winter,  and  who  could  not,  of  course,  be  received  when  the  house 
was  in  the  hands  of  the  workmen. 

To  this  letter  Mr.  Fairlie  had  replied  by  requesting  Sir  Percival  himself 
to  suggest  a  day  for  the  marriage,  subject  to  Miss  Fairlie's  approval,  which 
her  guardian  willingly  undertook  to  do  his  best  to  obtain.  Sir  Percival 
wrote  back  by  the  next  post,  and  proposed  (in  accordance  with  his  own 
views  and  wishes,  from  the  first)  the  latter  part  of  December — ^perhaps  the 
twenty-second,  or  twenty-fourth,  or  any  other  day  that  the  lady  and  her 
guardian  might  prefer.  The  lady  not  being  at  hand  to  speak  for  herself, 
her  guardian  had  decided,  in  her  absence,  on  the  earliest  day  mentioned — 
the  twenty-second  of  December — and  had  written  to  recall  us  to  Idmmeridge 
in  consequence. 

After  explaining  these  particulars  to  me  at  a  private  interview  yesterday, 
Mr.  Fairlie  suggested,  in  his  most  amiable  manner,  that  I  should  open  the 
necessary  negociations  to-day.  Feeling  that  resistance  was  useless,  unless 
I  could  first  obtain  Laura's  authority  to  make  it,  I  consented  to  speak  to 
her,  but  declared,  at  the  same  time,  that  I  would  on  no  consideration  under- 
take to  gain  her  consent  to  Sir  Percival's  wishes.  Mr.  Fairlie  complimented 
me  on  my  "  excellent  conscience,**  much  as  he  would  have  complimented 
me,  if  we  had  been  out  walking,  on  my  "  excellent  constitution,**  and 
seemed  perfectly  satisfied,  so  far,  with  having  simply  shifted  one  more 
family  responsibility  from  his  o\vn  shoulders  to  mine. 

This  morning,  I  spoke  to  Laura  as  I  had  promised.  The  composure— I 
may  almost  say,  the  insensibility — which  she  has  so  strangely  and  so 
resolutely  maintained  ever  since  Sir  Percival  left  us,  was  not  proof  against 
the  shock  of  the  news  I  had  to  tell  her.  She  turned  pale,  and  trembled 
violently. 

"  Not  so  soon  1"  she  pleaded.    "  Oh,  Marian,  not  so  soon  !** 

The  slightest  hint  she  could  give  was  enough  for  me.  I  rose  to  leave 
the  room,  and  fight  her  battle  for  her  at  once  with  Mr.  FairUo. 


138  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE 

Just  as  my  hand  was  on  the  door,  she  caught  fast  hold  of  my  dress,  and 
utopped  me. 

"  Let  me  go !"  I  said.  "  My  tongue  hums  to  tell  your  uncle  that  he 
and  Sir  Percival  are  not  to  have  it  all  their  own  way.** 

She  sighed  hitterly,  and  still  held  my  dress. 

«  No  r  she  said,  faintly.     "  Too  late,  Marian,  too  late  1** 

**Kot  a  minute  too  late,"  I  retorted.  .  "The  questx-j?  <»f  time  is  our 
question — ^and  trust  me,  Laura,  to  take  a  woma.  *ull  advantage 
of  it." 

I  unclasped  her  hand  from  my  gown  while  I  spoke  •,  out  she  slipped 
both  her  arms  round  my  waist  at  the  same  moment,  and  held  me  more 
effectually  than  ever. 

**  It  will  only  involve  us  in  more  trouble  and  more  confusion,"  she  said. 
**  It  will  set  you  and  my  uncle  at  variance,  and  bring  Sir  Percival  here 
again  with  fresh  causes  of  complaint ** 

"So  much  the  better  I**  I  cried  out,  passionately.  "  Who  cares  for  his 
causes  of  complaint  ?  Are  you  to  break  your  heart  to  set  his  mind  at 
ease  ?  No  man  under  heaven  deserves  these  sacrifices  from  us  women. 
Men !  They  are  the  enemies  of  our  innocence  and  our  peace — they  drag 
us  away  from  our  parents'  love  and  our  sisters*  friendship — they  take  us 
body  and  soul  to  themselves,  and  fasten  our  helpless  lives  to  theirs  as  they 
chain  up  a  dog  to  his  kenneL  And  what  does  the  best  of  them  give  us  in 
return  ?    Let  me  go,  Laura — ^I'm  mad  when  1  think  of  it  I" 

The  tears — miserable,  weak,  women's  tears  of  vexation  and  rage — started 
to  my  eyes.  She  smiled  sadly ;  and  put  her  handkerchief  over  my  face, 
to  hide  for  me  the  betrayal  of  my  own  weakness — the  weakness  of  all 
others  which  she  knew  that  I  most  despised. 

"  Oh,  Marian  !**  she  said.  "Fow  crying !  Think  what  you  would  say  to 
me,  if  the  places  were  changed,  and  if  those  tears  were  mine.  All  your 
love  and  courage  and  devotion  will  not  alter  what  muit  happen,  sooner  or 
later.  Let  my  uncle  have  his  way.  Let  us  have  no  more  troubles  and 
heart-burnings  that  any  sacrifice  of  mine  can  prevent.  Say  you  will  live 
with  me,  Marian,  when  I  am  married — and  say  no  more." 

But  I  did  say  more.  I  forced  back  the  contemptible  tears  that  were  no 
relief  to  ma,  and  that  only  distressed  "h&r ;  and  reasoned  and  pleaded  aa 
calmly  as  I  could.  It  was  of  no  avail.  She  made  me  twice  repeat  the 
promise  to  live  with  her  when  she  was  married,  and  then  suddenly  asked 
a  question  which  turned  my  sorrow  and  my  sympathy  for  her  into  a  new 
direction. 

"While  we  were  at  Polesdean,"  she  said,  "you  had  a  letter, 
Marian-"- — *' 

Her  altered  tone ;  the  abrupt  manner  in  which  she  looked  away  from 
me,  and  hid  her  face  on  my  shoulder ;  the  hesitation  which  silenced  her 


THE  WOMAN   IN    WHITE.  lo9 

before  Bhe  had  completed  her  question,  all  told  me,  but  too  plainly,  to 
whom  the  half-expressed  inquiry  pointed. 

*'I  thought,  Laura,  that  you  and  I  were  never  to  refer  to  him  again,"  I 
said,  gently. 

*'  Yeu  had  a  letter  from  him  ?"  she  persisted. 

"Yes,"  I  replied,  "  if  you  must  know  it." 

"Do  you  mean  to  write  to  him  again?" 

I  hesitated.  I  had  been  afraid  to  tell  her  of  his  absence  from  England, 
or  of  the  manner  in  which  my  exertions  to  serve  his  new  hopes  and 
projects  had  connected  me  with  his  departure.  What  answer  could  I 
make?  He  was  gone  where  no  letters  could  reach  him  for  months, 
perhaps  for  years,  to  come. 

"  Suppose  I  do  mean  to  write  to  him  again,"  I  said,  at  last.  **  What 
then,  Laura?" 

Her  cheek  grew  burning  hot  against  my  neck ;  and  her  arms  trembled 
and  tightened  round  me. 

"  Don't  tell  him  about  the  twenty-second,"  she  whispered.  "  Promise, 
Marian — ^pray  promise  you  will  not  even  mention  my  name  to  him  when 
you  write  next." 

I  gave  the  promise.  No  words  can  say  how  sorrowfully  I  gave  it. 
She  instantly  took  her  arm  from  my  waist^  walked  away  to  the  window, 
and  stood  looking  out,  with  her  back  to  me.  After  a  moment  she  spoke 
once  more,  but  without  turning  round,  virithout  allowing  me  to  catch  the 
smallest  glimpse  of  her  face. 

"  Are  you  going  to  my  uncle's  room  ?"  she  asked.  "  Will  you  say  that 
I  consent  to  whatever  arrangement  he  may  think  best?  Never  mind 
leaving  me,  Marian.    I  shall  be  better  alone  for  a  little  while." 

I  went  out.  If,  as  soon  as  I  got  into  the  passage,  I  could  have 
transported  Mr.  Fairlie  and  Sir  Percival  Glyde  to  the  uttermost  ends  of 
the  earth,  by  lifting  one  of  my  fingers,  that  finger  would  have  been 
raised  without  an  instant's  hesitation.  For  once  my  unhappy  temper  now 
stood  my  friend.  I  should  have  broken  down  altogether  and  burst  into  a 
violent  fit  of  crying,  if  my  tears  had  not  been  all  burnt  up  in  the  heat  of 
my  anger.  As  it  was,  I  dashed  into  Mr.  Fairlie's  room— called  to  him 
as  harshly  as  possible,  "Laura  consents  to  the  twenty-second" — and 
dashed  t>ut  again  without  waiting  for  a  word  of  answer.  I  banged  the 
door  after  me ;  and  I  hope  I  shattered  Mr.  Fairlie's  nervous  system  for  the 
rest  of  the  day. 

28th. — This  morning,  I  read  poor  Hartright's  farewell  letter  over  again ; 
a  doubt  having  crossed  my  mind  since  yesterday,  whether  I  am  acting 
wisely  in  concealing  the  fact  of  his  departure  from  Laura. 

On  reflection,  I  i^till  think  I  am  right.    The  allusions  in  his  letter  U> 


140  :fls  woUAN  i:n  white. 

the  preparations  made  for  the  expedition  to  Central  America,  all  show  that 
the  leaders  of  it  know  it  to  be  dangerous.  If  the  discovery  of  this  makes 
me  uneasy,  what  would  it  make  her  f  It  is  had  enough  to  feel  that  hvs 
departure  has  deprived  us  of  the  friend  of  all  others  to  whose  devotioa  we 
oonld  trust,  in  the  hour  of  need,  if  ever  that  hour  comes  and  finds  us 
helpless.  But  it  is  far  worse  to  know  that  he  has  gone  from  us  to  face  the 
perils  of  a  bad  climate,  a  wild  country,  and  a  disturbed  population. 
Surely  it  would  be  a  cruel  candour  to  tell  Laura  this,  without  a  pressing 
and  a  positive  necessity  for  it  ? 

I  almost  doubt  whether  I  ought  not  to  go  a  step  farther,  and  bum  the 
letter  at  once,  for  fear  of  its  one  day  falling  into  wrong  hands.  It  not  only 
refers  to  Laura  in  terms  which  ought  to  remain  a  secret  for  ever  between 
the  writer  and  me ;  but  it  reiterates  his  suspicion — so  obstinate,  so  unac- 
countable, and  so  alarming — that  he  has  been  secretly  watched  since  he  left 
Limmeridge.  He  declares  that  he  saw  the  faces  of  the  two  strange  men,  who 
followed  him  about  the  streets  of  London,  watching  him  among  the  crowd 
which  gathered  at  Liverpool  to  see  the  expedition  embark ;  and  he  posi- 
tively asserts  that  he  heard  the  name  of  Anne,  Catherick  pronounced 
behind  him,  as  he  got  into  the  boat.  His  own  words  are,  "These  eventa 
have  a  meaning,  these  events  must  lead  to  a  result.  The  mysterj'  of  Anne 
Catherick  is  not  cleared  up  yet.  She  may  never  cross  my  path  again ;  but 
if  ever  she  crosses  yours,  make  better  use  of  the  opportunity,  Miss  Hal- 
combe,  than  I  made  of  it.  I  speak  on  strong  conviction ;  I  entreat  you  to 
remember  what  I  say."  These  are  his  own  expressions.  There  is  no 
danger  of  my  forgetting  them— my  memory  is  only  too  ready  to  dwell  on 
any  words  of  Hartright's  that  refer  to  Anne  Catherick.  But  there  is  danger 
in  my  keeping  the  letter.  The  merest  accident  might  place  it  at  the  mercy 
»f  strangers.  I  may  fall  ill ;  I  may  die.  Better  to  bum  it  at  once,  and 
have  one  anxiety  the  less. 

It  is  burnt  I  The  ashes  of  his  farewell  letter — the  last  he  may  ever  write 
to  me — lie  in  a  few  black  fragments  on  the  hearth.  Is  this  the  sad  end  to 
all  that  sad  story  ?    Oh,  not  the  end — surely,  surely  not  the  end  already  I 

29th. — The  preparations  for  the  marriage  have  begun.  The  dressmaker 
has  come  to  receive  her  orders.  Laura  is  perfectly  impassive,  perfectly  care- 
less about  the  question  of  all  others  in  which  a  woman's  personal  interests 
are  most  closely  bound  up.  She  has  left  it  all  to  the  dressmaker  and  to 
me.  If  poor  Hartright  had  been  the  baronet,  and  the  husband  of  her 
father's  choice,  how  differently  she  would  have  behaved !  How  anxious 
and  capricious  she  would  have  been ;  and  what  a  hard  task  the  best  oi 
dressmakers  would  have  found  it  to  please  her  I 

80th.  —We  hear  every  day  from  Sir  Percival.  The  latt  news  is,  that  the 


T3IE   mm  AN  IN   WHITE.  141 

alteiAtions  in  his  honse  will  occupy  from  four  to  six  months,  before  they 
can  be  properly  completed.  If  painters,  paper-hangers,  and  upholsterers 
could  make  happiness  as  well  as  splendour,  I  should  be  interested  about 
their  proceedings  in  Laura's  future  home.  As  it  is,  the  only  part  of  Sir 
PerciFal's  last  letter  which  does  not  leave  me  as  it  found  me,  perfectly  in- 
different to  all  his  plans  and  projects,  is  the  part  which  refers  to  the  wed- 
ding tour.  He  proposes,  as  Laura  is  delicate,  and  as  the  winter  threatens 
to  be  unusually  severe,  to  take  her  to  Rome,  and  to  remain  in  Italy  until 
the  early  part  of  next  summer.  If  this  plan  should  not  be  approved,  he  is 
equally  ready,  although  he  has  no  establishment  of  his  own  in  town,  to 
spend  the  season  in  London,  in  the  most  suitable  furnished  house  that  can 
be  obtained  for  the  purpose. 

Putting  myself  and  my  own  feelings  entirely  out  of  the  question  (which 
it  is  my  duty  to  do,  and  which  I  have  done),  I,  for  one,  have  no  doubt  oi 
the  propriety  of  adopting  the  iirst  of  these  proposals.  In  either  case,  a 
separation  between  Laura  and  me  is  inevitable.  It  will  be  a  longer  sepa< 
ration,  in  the  event  of  their  going  abroad,  than  it  yrould  be  in  the  event  of 
their  remaining  in  London — ^but  we  must  set  against  this  disadvantage,  the 
benefit  to  Laura  on  the  other  side,  of  passing  the  winter  in  a  mild  climate 
and,  more  than  that,  the  immense  assistance  in  raising  her  spirits,  and 
reconciling  her  to  her  new  existence,  which  the  mere  wonder  and  excite- 
ment of  travelling  for  the  first  time  in  her  life  in  the  most  interesting 
country  in  the  world,  must  surely  afford.  She  is  not  of  a  disposition  to 
Und  resources  in  the  conventional  gaieties  and  excitements  of  London. 
'Ihey  would  only  make  the  first  oppression  of  this  lamentable  marriage 
fall  the  heavier  on  her.  I  dread  the  beginning  of  her  new  life  more  than 
words  can  tell;  but  I  see  some  hope  for  her  if  she  travels— none  if  she 
remains  at  home. 

It  is  strange  to  look  back  at  this  latest  entry  in  my  journal,  and  to  find 
that  I  am  writing  of  the  marriage  and  the  parting  with  Laura,  as  people 
write  of  a  settled  thing.  It  seems  so  cold  and  so  unfeeling  to  be  looking  at 
the  future  already  in  this  cruelly  composed  way.  But  what  other  way  is 
possible,  now  that  the  time  is  drawing  so  near  ?  Before  another  month  is 
over  our  heads,  she  will  be  his  Laura  instead  of  mine  I  His  Laura  I  I  am 
as  little  able  to  realize  the  idea  which  those  two  words  convey — ^my  mind 
feels  almost  as  dulled  and  stunned  by  it — as  if  writing  of  her  marriage  were 
like  ¥niting  of  her  death. 

December  1st. — A  sad,  sad  day  ;  a  day  that  I  have  no  heart  to  describe 
at  any  length.  After  weakly  putting  it  off,  last  night,  I  was  obliged  to 
speak  to  her  this  morning  of  Sir  PercivaFs  proposal  about  the  wedding 
tour. 

In  the  full  cx>nvlction  that  I  should  Ve  with  her,  wherever  she  went,  the 


142  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

poor  child — ^for  a  child  she  is  still  in  many  things— was  almost  happy  ai 
the  prospect  of  seeing  the  wonders  of  Florence  and  Borne  and  Naples.  It 
nearly  broke  my  heaH  to  dispel  her  delusion,  and  to  bring  her  face  to  face 
with  the  hard  truth.  I  was  obliged  to  tell  her  that  no  man  tolerates  a 
rival — not  even  a  woman  rival — ^in  his  wife's  affections,  when  he  first 
marries,  whatever  he  may  do  afterwards.  I  was  obliged  to  warn  her,  that 
my  chance  of  living  with  her  permanently  under  her  own  roof,  depended 
entirely  on  my  not  arousing  Sir  Percival's  jealousy  and  distrust  by  stand- 
ing between  them  at  the  beginning  of  their  marriage,  in  the  position  of  the 
chosen  depository  of  his  wife's  closest  secrets.  Drop  by  drop,  I  poured  the 
profaning  bitterness  of  this  world's  wisdom  into  that  pure  heart  and  that 
innocent  mind,  while  every  higher  and  better  feeling  within  me  recoiled 
from  my  miserable  task.  It  is  over  now.  She  has  leamf  her  hard,  her 
inevitable  lesson.  The  simple  illusions  of  her  girlhood  are  gone ;  and  my 
hand  has  stripped  them  off.  Better  mine  than  his — that  is  all  my  conso- 
lation— better  mine  than  his. 

So  the  first  proposal  is  the  proposal  accepted.  They  are  to  go  to  Italy  ; 
and  I  am  to  arrange,  with  Sir  Percival's  permission,  for  meeting  them  and 
staying  with  them,  when  they  return  to  England.  In  other  words,  I  am 
to  ask  a  personal  favour,  for  the  first  time  in  my  life,  and  to  ask  it  of  the 
man  of  all  others  to  whom  I  least  desire  to  owe  a  serious  obligation  of  any 
kind.    Well  I  I  think  I  could  do  even  more  than  that,  for  Laura's  sake. 

2nd. — ^On  looking  back,  I  find  myself  always  referring  to  Sir  Percival  in 
disparaging  terms.  In  the  turn  affairs  have  now  taken,  I  must  and  will 
root  out  my  prejudice  against  him.  I  cannot  think  how  it  first  got  into 
my  mind.    It  certainly  never  existed  in  former  times. 

Is  it  Laura's  reluctance  to  become  his  wife  that  has  set  me  against  him  ? 
Have  Hartright's  perfectly  intelligible  prejudices  infected  me  without  my 
suspecting  their  influence?  Does  that  letter  of  Anne  Gatherick's  still 
leave  a  lurking  distrust  in  my  mind,  in  spite  of  Sir  Percival's  explanation^ 
and  of  the  proof  in  my  possession  of  the  truth  of  it  ?  I  cannot  account  for 
the  state  of  my  own  feelings :  the  one  thing  I  am  certain  of  is,  that  it  is 
my  duty— doubly  my  duty,  now — not  to  wrong  Sir  Percival  by  unjustly 
distrusting  him.  If  it  has  got  to  be  a  habit  with  me  always  to  write  of  him 
in  the  same  unfavourable  manner,  I  must  and  will  break  myself  of  this  un- 
worthy tendency,  even  though  the  effort  should  force  me  to  close  the  pages 
of  my  journal  till  the  marriage  is  over  I  I  am  seriously  dissatisfied  with 
myself — ^I  will  write  no  more  to-day. 


December  16th. — A  whole  fortnight  has  passed ;  and  I  have  not  once 
opened  these  pagss.    1  have  been  long  enough  away  from  my  journal,  to 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  143 

fome  bael  to  it,  with  a  heallAuer  and  better  mind,  I  hope,  so  far  as  8ii 
Percival  is  concerned. 

There  is  not  much  to  record  of  the  past  two  weeks.  The  dresses  are 
almost  all  finished ;  and  the  new  travelling  trunks  have  been  sent  here  from 
London.  Poor  dear  Laura  hardly  leaves  me  for  a  moment,  all  day  ;  and, 
last  night,  when  neither  of  us  could  sleep,  she  came  and  crept  into  my  bed 
to  talk  to  me  there.  **  I  shall  lose  you  so  soon,  Marian,*'  she  said ;  *'  I 
most  make  the  most  of  you  while  I  can." 

They  are  to  be  married  at  Limmeridge  Church ;  and,  thank  Heavci^ 
not  one  of  the  neighbours  is  to  be  invited  to  the  ceremony.  The  onl;f 
visitor  wiU  be  our  old  friend,  Mr.  Arnold,  who  is  to  come  from  Polesdean, 
to  give  Laura  away ;  her  uncle  being  far  too  delicate  to  trust  himself  out- 
side the  door  in  such  inclement  weather  as  we  now  have.  If  I  were  not 
detennined,  from,  this  day  forth,  to  see  nothing  but  the  bright  side  of  oui 
prospects,  the  melancholy  absence  of  any  male  relative  of  Laura's,  at  the 
most  important  moment  of  her  life,  would  make  me  very  gloomy  and  very 
distrustful  of  the  future.  But  I  have  done  with  gloom  and  distrust — that 
is  to  say,  I  have  done  with  writing  about  either  the  one  or  the  other  in 
this  journal. 

Sir  Percival  is  to  arrive  to-morrow.  He  offered,  in  case  we  wished  Ui 
treat  him  on  terms  of  rigid  etiquette,  to  write  and  ask  our  clergyman  to 
grant  him  the  hospitality  of  the  rectory,  during  the  short  period  of  his 
sojourn  at  Limmeridge,  before  the  marriage.  Under  the  circumstances, 
neither  Mr.  Fairlie  nor  I  thought  it  at  all  necessary  for  us  to  trouble  ourselves 
ahout  attending  to  trifling  forms  and  ceremonies.  Li  our  wild  moorland 
country,  and  in  this  great  lonely  house,  we  may  well  claim  to  be  beyond 
the  reach  of  the  trivial  conventionalities  which  hamper  people  in  other 
places.  I  vnx)te  to  Sir  Percival  to  thank  him  for  his  polite  offer,  and  to 
beg  that  be  would  occupy  his  old  rooms,  just  as  usual,  at  Limmeridge 
House. 

17th.  He  arrived  to-day,  looking,  as  I  thought,  a  little  worn  and  anxious, 
but  still  talking  and  laughing  like  a  man  in  the  best  possible  spirits.  He 
brought  with  him  some  really  beautiful  presents,  in  jewelry,  which  Laura 
received  with  her  best  grace,  and,  outwardly  at  least,  with  perfect  self- 
possession.  The  only  sign  I  can  detect  of  the  struggle  it  must  cost  her  to 
preserve  appearances  at  this  trying  time,  expresses  itself  in  a  sudden  un« 
willingness,  on  her  part,  ever  to  be  left  alone.  Instead  of  retreating  to  her 
own  room,  as  usual,  she  seems  to  dread  going  there.  When  I  went  up- 
stairs to-day,  after  lunch,  to  put  on  my  bonnet  for  a  walk,  she  volunteered 
to  join  me ;  and,  again,  before  dinner,  she  threw  the  door  open  between  oui 
two  rooms,  so  that  we  might  talk  to  each  other  while  we  were  dressing. 
**  Keep  me  always  doing  something,"  she  said ;  '•  keep  me  always  in  com 


114  THS  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

pany  with  somebodj.    Don't  let  me  think — ^that  is  all  I  ask  now,  Marian 
—don't  let  me  think." 

This  sad  change  in  Iier  only  increases  her  attractions  for  Sir  Percival, 
He  interprets  it,  I  can  see,  to  his  own  advantage.  There  is  a  feverish  flush 
in  her  cheeks,  a  feverish  brightness  in  her  eyes,  which  he  welcomes  as  the 
return  of  her  beauty  and  the  recovery  of  her  spirits.  She  talked  to-day  at 
dinner  with  a  gaiety  and  carelessness  so  false,  so  shockingly  out  of  her 
character,  that  I  secretly  longed  to  silence  her  and  take  her  away.  Sir 
Percival's  delight  and  surprise  appeared  to  be  beyond  all  expression.  The 
anxiety  which  I  had  noticed  on  his  feuse  when  he  arrived,  totally  dis- 
appeared from  it ;  and  he  looked,  even  to  my  eyes,  a  good  ten  years  younger 
than  he  really  is. 

There  can  be  no  doubt — though  some  strange  perversity  prevents   me 
from  seeing  it  myself — there  can  be  no  doubt  that  Laura's  future  husband 
is  a  very  handsome  man.    Begular  features  form  a  personal  advantage  to 
begin  with — and  he  has  them.     Bright  brown  eyes,  either  in  man   or 
woman,  are  a  great  attraction — and  Ue  has  them.    Even  baldness,  when  it 
is  only  baldness  over  the  forehead  (as  in  his  case),  is  rather  becoming,  than 
not,  in  a  man,  for  it  heightens  the  head  and  adds  to  the  intelligence  of  the 
face.    Grace  and  ease  of  movement ;  untiring  animation  of  manner ;  ready, 
pliant,  conversational  powers — all  these  are  unquestionable  merits,  and  all 
these  he  certainly  possesses.     Surely  Mr.  Gilmore,  ignorant  as  he  is  of 
Laura's  secret,  was  not  to  blame  for  feeling  surprised  that  she  should 
repent  of  her  marriage  engagement?    Any  one  else  in  his  place,  would 
have  shared  our  good  old  friend's  opinion.    If  I  were  asked,  at  tiiis  moment, 
to  say  plainly  what  defects  I  have  discovered  in  Sir  Percival,  I  could  only 
point  out  two.     One,  his  incessant  restlessness  and  excitability — which 
may  be  caused,  naturally  enough,  by  unusual  energy  of  character.     The 
other,  his  short,  sharp,  ill-tempered  manner  of  speaking  to  the  servants — 
Thich  may  be  only  a  bad  habit,  after  all.    No :  I  cannot  dispute  it,  and  I 
will  not  dispute  it — Sir  Percival  is  a  very  handsomO  and  a  very  agreeable 
man.    There  I  I  have  written  it  down,  at  last,  and  I  am  glad  it's  over. 

18th. — Feeling  weary  and  depressed,  this  morning,  I  left  Laura  with 
Mrs.  Yesey,  and  went  out  alone  for  one  of  my  brisk  mid-day  walks,  which 
I  have  discontinued  too  much  of  late.  I  took  the  dry  airy  road,  over  the 
moor,  that  leads  to  Todd's  Corner.  After  having  been  out  half  an  hour,  I 
was  excessively  surprised  to  see  Sir  Percival  approaching  me  from  ike 
direction  of  the  farm.  He  was  walking  rapidly,  swinging  his  stick;  his 
head  erect  as  usual,  and  his  shooting  jacket  flying  open  in  the  wind.  When 
we  met,  he  did  not  wait  for  me  to  ask  any  questions — ^he  told  me,  at  once, 
that  he  had  been  to  the  fiirm  to  inquire  if  Mr.  or  Mrs.  Todd  had  received 
any  tidings,  since  his  last  visit  to  Limmeridge,  of  Anne  CSaiberick. 


THK   WOMAl!r   IN   WHILK.  14  3 

"  Toil  lound,  of  course,  that  they  had  heard  Dothing?"  I  said. 

"Nothing  whatever,"  he  replied.  **I  hcgin  to  ho  seriously  afraid  that 
we  have  lost  her.  Do  you  happen  to  know,"  ho  continued,  looking  me  iii 
the  face  very  attentively,  "  if  the  artist — Mr.  Uartright — is  in  a  position  to 
give  us  any  further  infoimation  ?" 

"  He  has  neither  heard  of  her,  nor  seen  her,  since  he  left  Cumherland,' 
I  answered. 

"  Very  sad,"  said  Sir  Percival,  speaking  like  a  man  who  was  dis- 
appointed, and  yet,  oddly  enough,  looking,  at  the  same  time,  like  a  man 
who  was  relieved.  '*  It  is  impossible  to  say  what  misfortunes  may  not 
have  happened  to  the  miserable  creature.  I  am  inexpressibly  annoyed  at 
the  failure  of  all  my  efforts  to  restore  her  to  the  care  and  protection  which 
she  so  urgently  needs." 

This  time  he  really  looked  annoyed.  I  said  a  few  sympathising  words  ; 
and  we  then,  talked  of  other  subjects,  on  our  way  back  to  the  house. 
Surely,  my  chance  meeting  with  him  on  the  moor  has  disclosed  another 
favourable  trait  in  his  character?  Surely,  it  was  singularly  considerate 
and  unselfish  of  him  to  think  of  Anne  Catherick  on  the  eve  of  his  marriage, 
and  to  go  all  the  way  to  Todd's  Corner  to  make  inquiries  about  her,  when 
he  might  have  passed  the  time  so  much  more  agreeably  in  Laura*s  sopiety  ? 
Considering  that  he  can  only  have  acted  from  motives  of  pure  charity,  his 
conduct,  imder  the  circumstances,  shows  unusual  good  feeling,  and  deserves 
extraordinary  praise.  Woll !  I  give  him  extraordinary  praise — and  there's 
an  end  of  it. 

19th. — ^More  discoveries  in  the  inexhaustible  mine  of  Sir  Pcrcivars 
virtues. 

To-day,  I  approached  the  subject  of  my  proposed  sojourn  under  his 
wife's  roof,  when  he  brings  her  back  to  England.  I  had  hardly  dropped 
my  first  hint  in  this  direction,  before  he  caught  me  warmly  by  the  hand, 
and  said  I  had  made  the  very  offer  to  him,  which  he  had  been,  on  his  side, 
most  anxious  to  make  to  me.  I  was  the  companion  of  all  others  whom  he 
most  sincerely  longed  to  secure  for  his  wife ;  and  he  begged  me  to  believe 
that  I  had  conferred  a  lasting  favour  on  him  by  making  the  proposal  to 
live  with  Laura  after  her  marriage,  exactly  as  I  had  always  lived  with  her 
before  it. 

When  I  had  thanked  him,  in  her  name  and  mine,  for  his  considerate 
Kindness  to  both  of  us,  we  passed  next  to  the  subject  of  his  wedding  tour, 
and  began  to  talk  of  the  English  society  in  Eome  to  which  Laura  was  to 
be  introduced.  He  ran  over  the  names  of  several  friends  whom  he  ex- 
|>cctiid  to  meet  abroad  this  winter.  They  were  all  English,  as  well  as  1 
C!\n  remember,  with  one  exception.    The  one  exception  was  Count  Fosco. 

^rho  montion  of  the  Count's  name,  and  the  discovery  that  he  and  his 

i« 


146  TttE  WOMAN  IN  WHlTC. 

wife  are  likely  to  meet  the  bride  and  bridegroom  on  the  continent,  putk 
liaura's  marriage,  for  the  first  time,  in  a  distinctly  favonrable  light.  It  is 
likely  to  be  the  means  of  healing  a  family  feud.  Hitherto  Madame  Foflco 
has  chosen  to  forget  her  obligations  as  Laura's  aunt,  out  of  sheer  spite 
against  the  late  Mr.  Fairlie  for  his  conduct  in  the  affair  of  the  legacy. 
Now,  however,  she  can  persist  in  this  course  of  conduct  no  longer.  Sir 
Percival  and  Count  Fosco  are  old  and  fast  friends,  and  their  wives  will 
have  no  choice  but  to  meet  on  civil  terms.  Madame  Fosco,  in  her  maiden 
days,  was  one  of  the  most  impertinent  women  I  ever  met  with — capricious, 
exacting,  and  vain  to  the  last  degree  of  absurdity.  If  her  husband  has 
succeeded  in  bringing  her  to  her  senses,  he  deserves  the  gratitude  of  every 
member  of  the  family — and  he  may  have  mine  to  begin  with. 

I  am  becoming  anxious  to  know  the  Count.  He  is  the  most  intimate 
friend  of  Laura's  husband ;  and,  in  that  capacity,  he  excites  my  strongest 
interest.  Neither  Laura  nor  I  have  ever  seen  him.  All  I  know  of  him  is 
that  his  accidental  presence,  years  ago,  on  the  steps  of  the  Trinita  del 
Monte  at  Home,  assisted  Sir  Percival's  escape  from  robbery  and  assassi- 
nation, at  the  critical  moment  when  he  was  wounded  in  the  hand,  and 
might,  the  next  instant,  have  been  wounded  in  the  heart.  I  rememl)cr 
also  that,  at  the  time  of  the  late  Mr.  Fairlie's  absurd  objections  to  his 
sister's  marriage,  the  Count  wrote  him  a  very  temperate  and  sensible  letter 
on  the  subject,  which,  I  am  ashamed  to  say,  remained  unanswered.  This 
is  all  I  know  of  Sir  Percival's  friend.  I  wonder  if  he  will  ever  come  to 
England  ?    I  wonder  if  I  shall  like  him  ? 

My  pen  is  running  away  into  mere  speculation.  Let  me  return  to  sober 
matter  of  fact.  It  is  certain  that  Sir  Percival's  reception  of  my  ventnre- 
some  proposal  to  live  with  his  wife,  was  more  than  kind,  it  was  almost 
affecti(»iate.  I  am  sure  Laura's  husband  will  have  no  reason  to  complain 
of  me,  if  I  can  only  go  on  as  I  have  begun.  I  have  already  declared  him 
to  be  handsome,  agreeable,  full  of  good  feeling  towards  the  unfortunate, 
and  full  of  affectionate  kindness  towards  me.  Beally,  I  hardly  know 
myself  again,  in  my  new  character  of  Sir  Percival's  warmest  friend. 

20th. — I  hate  Sir  Percival !  I  flatly  deny  his  good  looks.  I  consider 
him  to  be  eminently  ill-tempered  and  disagreeable,  and  totally  wanting  in 
kindness  and  good  feeling.  Last  night,  the  cards  for  the  married  conple 
were  sent  home.  Laura  opened  the  packet,  and  saw  her  futura  name  in 
print,  for  the  first  time.  Sir  Percival  looked  over  her  shoulder  familiarly 
at  the  new  card  which  had  already  transformed  Miss  Fairlie  into  Lady 
Glyde — smiled  with  the  most  odious  self-complacency — and  whispered 
something  in  her  ear.  I  don't  know  what  it  was— Laura  has  refused  to 
tell  me— but  I  saw  her  face  tum  to  such  a  deadly  whiteness  that  I  thought 
he  T^uld  have  fainted.    He  took  no  notice  of  the  change :  he  seemed  tc 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITB.  147 

be  barbarously  unconscious  that  he  had  said  anything  to  pain  her.  All  my 
old  feelings  of  hostility  towards  him  revived  on  the  instant ;  and  all  the 
hours  that  have  passed,  since,  have  done  nothing  to  dissipate  them.  I  am 
more  imreasonable  and  more  unjust  than  ever.  In  three  words — ^how 
glibly  my  pen  writes  them  I— in  three  words,  I  hate  him. 

2l8t. — ^Elave  the  anxieties  of  this  anxious  time  shaken  me  a  little,  at 
last?  I  have  been  writing,  for  the  last  few  days,  in  a  tone  of  levity 
wladi,  Heaven  knows,  is  fer  enough  from  my  heart,  and  which  it  has 
rather  shocked  me  to  discover  on  looking  back  at  the  entries  in  my 

jooroal 

Perhaps  I  may  have  caught  the  feverish  excitement  of  Laura's  spiritBy 
for  the  last  week.  If  so,  the  fit  has  already  passed  away  from  me,  and  has 
left  me  in  a  very  strange  state  of  mind.  A  persistent  idetf  has  been  forcing 
itself  on  my  attention,  ever  since  last  night,  that  something  will  yet  happen 
to  prevent  the  marriage.  What  has  produced  this  singular  fancy  ?  Is  it 
the  indirect  result  of  my  apprehensions  for  Laura's  future?  Or  has  it 
been  unconsciously  suggested  to  me  by  the  increasing  restlessness  and 
irritability  which  I  have  certainly  observed  in  Sir  PercivaFs  manuer  as  the 
wedding-day  draws  nearer  and  nearer  ?  Impossible  to  say.  I  know  that 
I  have  the  idea — surely  the  wildest  idea,  under  the  circumstances,  that  ever 
entered  a  woman's  head  P— but  try  as  I  may,  I  cannot  trace  it  back  to  its 
wuroe. 

This  last  day  has  been  aU  confusion  and  wretchedness.  How  can  I 
write  about  it  ? — and  yet,  I  must  write.  Anything  is  better  than  brooding 
over  my  own  gloomy  thoughts. 

Kind  Mrs.  Vesey,  whom  we  have  all  too  much  overlooked  and  forgotten 
of  late,  innocently  caused  us  a  sad  morning  to  begin  with.  She  has  been, 
for  months  past,  secretly  making  a  warm  Shetland  shawl  for  her  dear 
pnpil — a  most  beautiful  and  surprising  piece  of  work  to  be  done  by  a 
woman  at  her  age  and  with  her  habits.  The  gift  was  presented  this 
morning ;  and  poor  warm-hearted  Laura  completely  broke  down  when 
the  shawl  was  put  proudly  on  her  shouldere  by  lie  loving  old  friend 
and  guardian  of  her  motherless  childhood.  I  was  hardly  allowed  time 
to  quiet  them  both,  or  even .  to  dry  my  own  eyes,  when  I  was  sent  for 
by  Mr.  Fairlie,  to  be  fjavoured  with  a  long  recital  of  his  arrangements  for 
the  preservation  of  his  own  tranquillity  on  the  wedding-day. 

"Dear  Laura"  was  to  receive  his  present — a  shabby  ring,  with  her 
affectionate  imcle's  hair  for  an  ornament,  instead  of  a  precious  stone,  and 
with  a  heartless  French  inscription,  inside,  about  congenial  sentiments  smd 
eternal  friendship—"  dear  Laura  "  was  to  receive  this  tender  tribute  fifom 
toy  hands  immediately,  so  that  she  might  have  plenty  of  time  to  recover 
from  the  agitation  produced  by  the  gift^  before  she  appeared  in  Mr.  Fairli^* 


148  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

presence.  "  Dear  Laura "  wm  to  pay  him  a  little  yisit  that  evening,  and 
to  bo  kind  enough  not  to  make  a  scene.  '*  Dear  Laora "  was  to  pay  hizn 
another  little  visit  in  her  wedding  dress,  the  next  morning,  and  to  be 
kind  enough,  again^  not  to  make  a  scene.  "  Dear  Laura  "  was  to  look  in 
once  more,  for  the  third  time,  before  going  away,  but  without  harrowing 
his  feelings  by  saying  when  she  was  going  away,  and  without  tears — **  in 
the  name  of  pity,  in  the  name  of  everything,  dear  Marian,  that  is  most 
affectionate  and  most  domestic  and  most  delightfully  and  charmingly  self- 
composed,  witJunU  tears  /"  I  was  so  exasperated  by  this  miserable  selfish 
trifling,  at  such  a  time,  that  I  should  certainly  have  shocked  Mr.  Fairlie 
by  some  of  the  hardest  and  rudest  truths  he  has  ever  heard  in  his  life,  if 
the  arrival  of  Mr.  Arnold  from  Polesdean  had  not  called  me  away  to  new 
duties  down  stairs. 

The  rest  of  the  day  is  indescribahle.  I  believe  no  one  in  the  house 
really  knew  how  it  passed.  The  confusion  of  small  events,  all  huddled 
together  one  on  the  other,  bewildered  everybody.  There  were  dresses  sent 
home,  that  had  been  forgotten;  there  were  trunks  to  be  jiacked  and 
unpacked  and  packed  again  ;  there  were  presents  from  friends  far  and  near, 
friends  high  and  low.  We  were  all  needlessly  hurried;  all  nervously 
expectant  of  the  morrow.  Sir  Percival,  especially,  was  too  restless,  now, 
to  remain  five  minutes  together  in  the  same  place.  That  short,  sharp 
cough  of  his  trouhled  him  more  than  ever.  He  was  in  and  out  of 
doors  all  day  long :  and  he  seemed  to  grow  so  inquisitive,  on  a  sudden, 
that  he  questioned  the  very  strangers  who  came  on  small  errands  to  the 
house.  Add  to  all  this,  the  one  perpetual  thought,  in  Laura's  mind  and 
mine,  that  we  were  to  part  the  next  day,  and  the  haunting  dread,  unex- 
pressed by  either  of  us,  and  yet  ever  present  to  both,  that  this  deplorahle 
marriage  might  prove  to  be  the  one  fatal  error  of  her  life  and  the  one  hopeless 
soiTow  of  mine.  For  the  first  time  in  all  the  years  of  our  close  and  happy 
intercourse  we  almost  avoided  looking  each  other  in  the  face;  and  we 
refrained,  by  common  consent,  from  speaking  together  in  private,  through 
the  whole  evening.  I  can  dwell  on  it  no  longer.  Whatever  future  sorrows 
may  be  in  store  for  me,  I  shall  always  look  back  on  this  twenty-first  of 
December  as  the  most  comfortless  and  most  miserable  day  of  my  life. 

I  am  writing  these  lines  in  the  solitude  of  my  own  room,  long  after 
midnight ;  having  just  come  back  from  a  stolen  look  at  Laura  in  her 
pretty  little  white  bed — ^the  bed  she  has  occupied  since  the  days  of  her 
girlhood. 

There  she  lay,  unconscious  that  I  was  looking  at  her— quiet,  more  quiet 
than  I  had  dared  to  hope,  hut  not  sleeping.  The  glimmer  of  the  night- 
light  showed  me  that  her  eyes  were  only  partially  closed:  the  tracer  of 
tears  glistened  between  her  eyelids.  My  little  keepsake— only  a  brooch — 
lay  on  the  ta^jle  at  her  bedside,  with  her  pi*ayer-book,  and  the  ininiatum 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHI'lE.  149 

portrait  of  her  father  which  she  takes  with  her  wherever  she  goes.  I 
waited  a  moment,  looking  at  her  from  hehind  her  pillow,  as  she  lay 
beneath  me,  with  one  arm  and  hand  resting  on  the  white  coverlid,  so  still, 
w  quietly  hreathing,  that  the  frill  on  her  night-dress  never  moved — I 
waited,  looking  at  her,  as  I  have  seen  her  thousands  of  times,  as  I  shall 
never  see  her  again — ^and  then  stole  hack  to  my  room.  My  own  love  1 
with  all  your  wealth,  and  all  your  heauty,  how  friendless  you  are  1  The 
one  man  who  would  give  his  heart's  life  to  serve  you,  is  far  away,  tossing, 
this  stormy  night,  on  the  awful  sea.  Who  else  is  left  to  you  ?  No  father, 
no  brother — ^no  living  creature  hut  the  helpless,  useless  woman  who  writes 
these  sad  lines,  and  watches  hy  you  for  the  morning,  in  sorrow  that  she 
cannot  compose,  in  doubt  that  she  cannot  conquer.  Oh,  what  a  trust  is  to 
be  placed  in  that  man's  hands  to-morrow !  If  ever  he  foi^ets  it ;  if  ever  he 
injures  a  hair  of  her  head  I 

The  Twenty-second  op  Decembbb.  Seven  o*clock.  A  wild  unsettled 
morning.  She  has  just  risen — ^better  and  calmer,  now  that  the  time  has 
come,  than  she  was  yesterday. 


Ten  o'dock.  She  is  dressed.  We  have  kissed  each  other;  we  have 
promised  each  other  not  to  lose  courage.  I  am  away  for  a  moment  in  my 
own  room.  In  the  whirl  and  confusion  of  my  thoughts,  I  can  detect  that 
strange  fancy  of  some  hindrance  happening  to  stop  the  marriage,  still 
hanging  about  my  mind.  Is  it  hanging  about  his  mind,  too  ?  I  see  him 
from  the  window,  moving  hither  and  thither  uneasily  among  the  carriages 
at  the  door. — How  can  I  write  such  folly  I  The  marriage  is  a  certainty. 
In  less  than  half  an  hour  we  start  for  the  church. 

^ven  o^clock.     It  is  all  over.    They  are  married. 


TTiree  o'clock.     They  are  gone  !    I  am  blind  with  crying— I  can  write  r.o 
*  •  •  *  • 


{The  First  Epoch  /  the  Story  cloees  here,^ 


IbO  the:  womAu  in  wmxjfi. 


THE  SECOND  EPOCH. 


77ie  Story  contmued  hy  Marian  Haloombc. 

1. 

*  •  •  *  • 

Blackwater  Park,  Hampshire. 

Juke  11th,  1850. — Six  months  to  look  back  on — six  long,  lonely  months^ 
since  Laura  and  I  last  saw  eacli  other  I 

How  many  days  have  I  still  to  wait?  Only  one  I  To-morrow,  the 
twelfth,  the  travellers  return  to  England.  I  can  hardly  realize  my  own 
happiness ;  I  can  hardly  believe  that  the  next  four-and-twenty  hours  will 
complete  the  last  day  of  separation  between  Laura  and  me. 

She  and  her  husband  have  been  in  Italy  all  the  winter,  and  afterwards 
in  the  Tyrol.  They  come  back,  accompanied  by  Count  Fosco  and  his  wife, 
who  propose  to  settle  somewhere  in  the  neighbourhood  of  London,  and  who 
jiave  engaged  to  stay  at  Blackwater  Park  for  the  summer  months  before 
deciding  on  a  place  of  residence.  So  long  as  Laura  returns,  no  matter  who 
returns  with  her.  Sir  Percival  may  fill  the  house  from  floor  to  ceiling,  if 
he  likes,  on  condition  that  his  wife  and  I  inhabit  it  toge^er. 

Meanwhile,  here  I  am,  established  at  Blackwater  Park ;  *'  the  ancient  and 
interesting  seat "  (as  the  county  history  obligingly  Informs  me)  **  of  Sir 
Percival  Glyde,  Bart/* — and  the  future  abiding-place  (as  I  may  now  venture 
to  add  on  my  account)  of  plain  Marian  Halcombe,  spinster,  now  settled  in 
a  snug  little  sitting-room,  with  a  cup  of  tea  by  her  side,  and  all  her  earthly 
possessions  ranged  round  her  in  three  boxes  and  a  bag. 

I  left  Limmeridge  yesterday ;  having  received  Laura's  delightful  letter 
from  Paris,  the  day  before.  I  had  been  previously  uncertain  whether  I 
was  to  meet  them  in  London,  or  in  Hampshire ;  but  this  last  letter  informed 
me,  that  Sir  Percival  proposed  to  land  at  Southampton,  and  to  travel 
straight  on  to  his  country-house.  He  has.  spent  so  much  money  abroad, 
that  he  has  none  left  to  defray  the  expenses  of  living  in  London,  for  the 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITB.  Iftl 

remainder  of  the  seaaoii ;  and  he  is  eoonomicftlly  recolved  to  peas  the 
rammer  and  autumn  quietly  at  Blackwatcr.  Laura  has  had  more  than 
enoogh  of  excitement  and  change  of  scene ;  and  is  pleased  at  the  prospect  of 
ooontry  tranquillity  and  retirement  which  her  husband's  prudence  provides 
for  her.  As  for  me,  I  am  leady  to  he  happy  anywhere  in  her  society. 
We  aie  all)  therefore,  well  contented  in  our  various  ways,  to  h^n 
with. 

Last  night,  I  slept  in  London,  and  was  delayed  there  so  long,  to-day,  by 
nurioos  calls  and  commissions,  that  I  did  not  reach  Blackwatcr,  this  evening, 
till  after  dusk. 

Judging  by  my  vague  impressions  of  the  place,  thus  &r,  it  is  the  exact 
opposite  of  Limmeridge. 

The  house  is  situated  on  a  dead  flat,  and  seems  to  be  shut  in — almost 
Bnffocated,  to  my  north-country  notions,  by  trees.  I  have  seen  nobody, 
bat  the  mannservant  who  opened  the  door  to  me,  and  the  housekeeper,  a 
▼ery  civil  person  who  showed  me  the  way  to  my  own  room,  and  got  me 
my  tea.  I  have  a  nice  little  boudoir  and  bedroom,  at  the  end  of  a  long 
passage  on  the  first  fioor.  The  servants  and  some  of  the  spare  rooms  are 
on  the  second  fioor ;  and  all  the  living  rooms  are  on  the  ground  floor.  I 
have  not  seen  one  of  them  yet,  and  I  know  nothing  about  the  house,  except 
that  one  wing  of  it  is  said  to  be  five  hundred  years  old,  that  it  had  a  moat 
itrand  it  once,  and  that  it  gets  its  name  of  Blackwater  from  a  lake  in  the 
park. 

Bleven  o'clock  has  just  struck,  in  a  ghostly  and  solenm  manner,  from  a 
tonet  over  the  centre  of  the  house,  which  I  saw  when  I  came  in.  A  large 
dog  has  been  woke,  apparently  by  the  sound  of  the  bell,  and  is  howling 
and  yawning  drearily,  somewhere  round  a  comer.  I  hear  echoing  footsteps 
in  the  passages  below,  and  the  iron  thumping  of  bolts  and  bars  at  the  house 
^r.  The  servants  are  evidently  going  to  bed.  Shall  I  follow  their 
example? 

No:  I  am  not  half  sleepy  enough.  Sleepy,  did  I  say?  I  feel  as  if  I 
should  never  close  my  eyes  again.  The  bare  anticipation  of  seeing  that 
dear  fioce  and  hearing  that  well-known  voice  to-morrow,  keeps  me  in  a 
perpetual  fever  of  excitement.  If  I  only  had  the  privileges  of  a  man,  I 
^oxild  order  out  Sir  Percival's  best  horse  instantly,  and  tear  away  on  a 
night-gallop,  eastward,  to  meet  the  rising  sun — a  long,  hard,  heavy,  cease- 
less gallop  of  hours  and  hours,  like  the  femous  highwayman's  ride  to  York 
^ing,  however,  nothing  but  a  woman,  condemned  to  patience^  propriety, 
and  petticoats,  for  life,  I  must  respect  the  housekeeper's  opinions,  and  try 
^  compose  myself  in  some  feeble  and  feminine  way. 

Beaiyng  ia  out  of  the  question — I  can't  fix  my  attention  on  books.  Let 
nae  try  if  I  can  write  myself  into  sleepiness  and  fatigue.  My  journal  has 
been  very  much  neglected  of  late.    What  can  I  recall— standing,  as  I  no^ 


152  THE   WOMAN   IN   WHlfE. 

do,  on  the  threshold  cf  a  new  h'fe — of  persons  and  events,  of  chances  and 
changes,  during  the  past  six  months — the  long,  weary,  empty  interval 
since  Laura's  wedding-day  ? 

Walter  Hartright  is  uppermost  in  my  memory ;  and  he  passes  first  in  the 
shadowy  procession  of  my  absent  friends.  I  received  a  few  lines  from  him, 
after  the  landing  of  the  expedition  in  Honduras,  written  more  cheerfully 
and  hopefully  than  he  has  written  yet.  A  month  or  six  weeks  later,  I  saw 
an  extract  from  an  American  newspaper,  describing  the  departure  of  the 
adventurers  on  their  inland  journey.  They  were  last  seen  entering  a  wild 
primeval  forest,  each  man  with  his  rifle  on  his  shoulder  and  his  baggage  at 
his  back.  Since  that  time,  civilization  has  lost  all  trace  of  them.  Not  a 
line  more  have  I  received  from  Walter ;  not  a  fragment  of  news  fi-om  the 
expedition  has  appeared  in  any  of  the  public  journals. 

The  same  dense,  disheartening  obscurity  hangs  over  the  fate  .^nd  fortunes 
of  Anne  Oatherick,  and  her  companion,  Mrs.  Clements.  Nothing  whatever 
has  been  heard  of  either  of  them.  Whether  they  are  in  the  .country  or  out 
of  it,  whether  they  are  living  or  dead,  no  one  knows.  Even  Sir  Percival's 
solicitor  has  lost  all  hope,  and  has  ordered  the  useless  search  after  the 
fugitives  to  be  finally  given  up. 

Our  good  old  friend  Mr.  Gilmore  has  met  with  a  sad  check  in  his  active 
professional  career.    Early  in  the  spring,  we  were  alarmed  by  hearing  that 
he  had  been  found  insensible  at  his  desk,  and  that  the  seizure  was  pro- 
nounced to  be  an  apoplectic  fit.    He  had  been  long  complaining  of  fulness 
and  oppression  in  the  head ;  and  his  doctor  had  warned  him  of  the  con- 
sequences that  would  follow  his  persistency  in  continuing  to  work,  early 
and  late,  as  if  he  was  still  a  young  man.     The  result  now  is  that  he  has 
been  positively  ordered  to  keep  out  of  his  oflSce  for  a  year  to  come,  at  least, 
and  to  seek  repose  of  body  and  relief  of  mind  by  altogether  changing  his 
usual  mode  of  life.    The  business  is  left,  accordingly,  to  be  carried  on  by 
his  partner ;  and  he  is,  himself,  at  this  moment,  away  in  Germany,  visiting 
some  relations  who  are  settled  there  in  mercantile  pursuits.    Thus,  another 
true  friend,  and  trustworthy  adviser,  is  lost  to  us — lost,  I  earnestly  hope 
ani  trust,  for  a  time  only. 

Poor  Mrs.  Vesey  travelled  with  me,  as  far  as  London.  It  was  impossible 
to  abandon  her  to  solitude  at  Limmeridge,  after  Laura  and  I  had  both  left 
the  house ;  and  we  have  arranged  that  she  is  to  live  with  an  unmarried 
younger  sister  of  hers,  who  keeps  a  school  at  Clapbam.  She  is  to  come  here 
this  autumn  to  visit  her  pupil — I  might  almost  say  her  adopted  child.  1 
saw  the  good  old  lady  safe  to  her  destination ;  and  left  her  in  the  care  of 
her  relative,  quietly  happy  at  the  prospect  of  seeing  Laura  again,  in  a  few 
months'  time. 

As  for  Mr.  Fairlic,  I  believe  I  am  guilty  of  no  injustice  if  J  describe  hm 


THE   WOMAN  IN    WIIliE.  153 

28  being  nnntterably  relieved  by  having  the  house  clear  of  tw  women.   'i1)e 
idea  of  his  missing  his  uiecc  is  simply  preposterous— he  used  to  let  months 
pass,  in  the  old  times,  without  attempting  to  see  her — and,  in  my  case  and 
Mrs.  Yesey's,  I  take  leave  to  consider  his  telling  us  both  that  he  was  half 
/icart-hroken  at  our  departure,  to  he  equivalent  to  a  confession  that  he  was 
secretly  rejoiced  to  got  rid  of  us.     His  last  caprice  has  led  him  to  keep  two 
photographers  incessantly  employed  in  producing  sun-pictures  of  aU  the 
treasures  and  curiosities  in  his  possession.      One  complete  copy  of  the 
collection  of  the  photographs  is  to  he  presented  to  the  Mechanics'  Institution 
of  Carlisle,  mounted  on  the  finest  cardboard,  with  ostentatious  red-letter 
inscriptions  underneath.     "  Madonna  and  Child,  by  Raphael.     In  the  pos- 
session of  Frederick  Fairlie,  Esquire."     "Copper  coin  of  the   period  of 
Tiglath  Pileser.    In  the  possession  of  Frederick  Fairlie,  Esquire."     "  Unique 
Kembrandt  etching.     Known  all  over  Europei  as  The  Smudge,  from  a 
printer's  blot  in  the  comer  which  exists  in  no  other  copy.    Valued  at  throe 
hundred  guineas.     In  the  possession  of  Frederick  Fairlie,  Esq."    Dozens 
of  photographs  of  this  sort,  and  all  inscribed  in  this  manner,  were  completed 
before  I  left  Cumberland  ;  and  hundreds  more  remain  to  he  done.    With 
this  new  interest  to  occupy  him,  Mr.  Fairlie  will  be  a  happy  man  for 
months  and  months  to  come ;  and  the  two  unfortunate  photographers  will 
share  the  social  martyrdom  which  he  has  hitherto  inflicted  on  his  valet 
alone. 

So  much  for  the  persons  and  events  which  hold  the  foremost  place  in  my 
memory.  What,  next,  of  the  one  person  who  holds  the  foremost  place  in 
my  heart  ?  Laura  has  been  present  to  my  thoughts  all  the  while  I  have 
been  writing  these  lines.  What  can  I  recall  of  her,  during  the  past  six 
months,  before  I  close  my  journal  for  the  night  ? 

I  have  only  her  letters  to  guide  me ;  and,  on  the  most  important  of  all 
the  questions  which  our  correspondence  can  discuss,  every  one  of  those 
letters  leaves  me  in  the  dark. 

Does  he  treat  her  kindly  ?  Is  she  happier  now  than  she  was  when  1 
parted  with  her  on  the  wedding-day  ?  All  my  letters  have  contained  these 
two  inquiries,  put  more  or  less  directly,  now  in  one  form,  and  now  in 
nnother ;  and  all,  on  that  point  only,  have  remained  without  reply,  or  have 
been  answered  as  if  my  questions  merely  related  to  the  state  of  her  health. 
She  informs  me,  over  and  over  again,  that  she  is  perfectly  well ;  that 
travelling  agrees  with  her ;  that  she  is  getting  through  the  winter,  for  the 
first  time  in  her  life,  without  catching  cold — but  not  a  word  can  I  find  any- 
vrbere  which  tells  me  plainly  that  she  is  reconciled  to  her  marriage,  and 
that  she  can  now  look  back  to  the  twenty-second  of  December  without  any 
Ditter  feelings  of  repentance  and  regret.  The  name  of  her  husband  is  only 
mentioned  in  her  letters,  as  she  might  mention  the  name  of  a  friend  who 
tiras  travelliiig  with  them,  and  who  had  undertaken  to  make  all  the  arrange- 


154  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHXT8, 

ments  for  the  joamey.  '^  Sir  Percival  **  has^  settled  that  we  leare  on  such  a 
day ;  *'  Sir  Perch  al "  has  decided  that  we  travel  hy  such  a  road.  Some- 
times she  writes,  **  Fercival "  only,  bnt  Yory  seldom — ^in  nine  cases  out  of 
fen,'  she  gives  him  his  title. 

I  cannot  find  tiiat  his  habits  and  opinions  have  changed  and  coloured 
hers  in  any  single  particular.  The  usual  moral  transformation  which  is 
insensibly  wrought  in  a  young,  fresh,  sensitive  woman  by  her  marEiage, 
seelns  never  to  have  taken  place  in  Laura.  She  writes  of  her  own  thoughts 
and  impressions,  amid  all  tiie  wonders  she  has  seen,  exactly  as  she  might 
have  written  to  some  one  else,  if  I  had  been  travelling  with  her  instead  of 
her  husband.  I  see  no  betiaykl  anywhere,  of  sympathy  of  any  kind  exist- 
ing between  them.  Even  when  she  wanders  from  the  subject  of  her  travels^ 
and  occupies  herself  with  the  prospects  that  await  her  in  England,  her 
speculations  are  busied  with  her  future  as  my  sister,  and  persistently 
neglect  to  notice  her  future  as  Sir  Fercival's  wife.  In  all  this,  theteis  no 
under-tone  of  complaint,  to  warn  me  that  she  is  absolutely  unhappy  in  her 
married  life.  The  impression  I  have  derived  from  our  correspondence 
dbes  not,  thank  God,  lead  me  to  any  such  distressing  conclusion  as  that. 
I  only  see  a  sad  torpor,  an  unchangeable  indifference,  when  I  turn  my 
mtind  from  her  in  the  old  character  of  a  aster*  and  look  at  her,  through 
the  medium  of  her  letters,  in  the  new  character  of  a  wife.  In  other  words, 
it  is  always  Laura  Fairlie  who  has  been  writing  to  me  for  the  last  six 
months,  and  never  Lady  Glyde. 

The  strange  silence  which  she  maintains  on  the  subject  of  her  husband's 
character  and  conduct,  she  preserves  with  almost  equal  resolution  in.  the 
few  references  whidi  her  later  letters  contain  to  the  name  of  her  husband's 
bosom  friend.  Count  Fosco. 

For  some  unexplained  reason,  the  Count  and  his  wife  appear  to  have 
changed  their  plans  abruptly,  at  the  end  of  last  autumn,  and  to  have  gone 
to  Vienna,  instead  of  going  to  Borne,  at  which  latter  place  Sir  Fercival  had 
ixpected  to  find  them  when  he  left  England.  They  only  quitted  Vienna 
in  the  spring,  and  travelled  as  far  as  the  Tyrol  to  meet  the  bride  and 
bridegroom  on  their  homeward  journey.  Laura  writes  readily  enough 
about  the  meeting  with  Madame  Fosco,  and  assures  me  that  she  has  found 
her  aunt  so  much  changed  for  the  better-*-fio  much  quieter  and  so  much 
more  sensible  as  a  wife  than  she  was  as  a  single  woman — that  I  shaL 
hardly  know  her  again  when  I  see  her  here.  But^  on  the  subject  of  Count 
Fosco  (who  interests  me  infinitely  more  than  his  wife),  Laura  is  pro* 
vokingly  circumspect  «id  silent.  She  only  says  that  he  puzzles  her,  and 
that  she  will  not  tell  me  what  her  impression  of  him  is,  until  I  have  sees 
him,  and  formed  my  own  opinion  first. 

This,  to  my  mind,  looks  ill  for  the  Count.  Laura  has  preserved,  far 
moie  perfectly  than  most  people  do  in  later  life,  the  child's  pubtle  faculty  of 


TU£   WOM^N  IN  WaiTE.  155 

knowing  a  friend  by  instuact;  «&d,  if  I  am  right  in  ftiMmmTOg  that  her  tni 
impieision  of  Gonnt  Fosoo  has  not  been  favonrable,  I,  for  one,  am  in 
some  4anger  of  doubting  and  difltruBting  that  illnstrioua  foreigner  beforf 
I  have  so  much  as  set  eyes  on  him.  But,  patience^  patience ;  this  un- 
certainty, and  many  uncertainties  more,  cannot  last  much  longer.  To- 
morrow will  see  all  my  doubts  in  a  £ftir  way  of  beiog  cleared  up^  sooner  or 
later. 

Twelve  o'clock  has  struck ;  and  I  have  just  come  back  to  close  these 
pages,  after  looking  out  at  my  open  window. 

It  is  a  still,  sultry,  moonless  night.  The  stars  are  dull  and  few.  The 
trees  that  shut  out  the  view  on  all  sides,  look  dimly  black  and  solid  in  the 
distance,  like  a  great  wall  of  rock.  I  hear  the  croaking  of  frogs,  fiidnt  and 
isroS;  and  the  echoes  of  the  great  clock  hum  in  the  airless  calm,  l<mg 
after  the  strokes  have  ceased.  I  wonder  how  Blackwater  Park  will  look  in 
the  daytime  ?    I  don't  altogether  like  it  by  night. 

12th. — A  day  of  investigations  and  discoveries — a  more  interesting  day, 
lor  many  reasons,  than  I  had  ventured  to  anticipate. 

I  began  my  Bight*seeing,  of  course,  with  the  house. 

The  main  body  of  the  building  is  of  the  time  of  (that  highly  overrated 
woman.  Queen  Elizabeth.  On  the  ground  floor,  there  are  two  hugely  long 
galleries,  with  low  ceilings,  lying  parallel  with  each  other,  and  rendered 
additionally  dark  and  dismal  by  hideous  family  portraita— every  one  ci 
which  I  should  like  to  bum.  The  rooms  on  the  floor  above  the  two 
galleries,  are  kept  in  tolerable  repair,  but  are  very  seldom  used.  The  civil 
housekeeper,  who  acted  as  my  guide,  ofiered  to  show  me  over  them-;  but 
considerately  added  that  she  feared  I  should  find  them  rather  out  of  order. 
My  respect  for  the  integrity  of  my  own  petticoats  and  stockings,  infinitely 
exceeds  my  respect  lor  all  the  Elizabethan  bedrooms  in  the  kingdom ;  so  I 
positively  declined  exploring  the  upper  r^ons  of  dust  and  dirt  at  the  risk 
of  soiling  my  nice  clean  clothes.  The  housekeeper  said,  *'  I  am  quite  of 
your  opinion,  miss  ;*'  and  appeared  to  think  me  the  most  sensible  woman 
she  had  met  with  for  a  long  time  past. 

So  much,  then,  for  the  main  building.  Two  wings  are  abided,  at  either 
wd  of  it  The  half-ruined  wing  on  the  left  (as  you  approach  the  house) 
^•as  OBce  a  place  of  residence  standing  by  itself,  and  was  built  in  the 
fourteenth  century.  One  of  Sir  Percivars  maternal  ancestors — ^I  don't 
remember,  and  don't  care,  which — ^tacked  on  the  main  building,  at  right 
angles  to  it,  in  the  aforesaid  Queen  Elizabeth's  time.  The  housekeeper 
told  me  that  the  architecture  of  '^  the  old  wing,*^  both  outside  and  inside^ 
was  considered  remarkably  fine  by  good  judges.  On  further  investigation, 
I  discovered  that  good  judges  could  only  exercise  their  abilities  on  Sir  Per- 
Sival's  piece  of  antiquity  by  previously  dismissing  from  their  minds  all  fear 


156  THE  AVOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

of  damp,  darkne£»,  and  rats.  Under  thes^circiimstanceg,  I  unhesitatingly 
acknowledged  myself  to  be  no  judge  at  all ;  and  suggested  that  we  should 
treat  "  the  old  wing"  precisely  as  we  had  previously  treated  the  Elizabethan 
bedix)oms.  Once  more,  the  housekeeper  said,  "I  am  quite  of  your 
opinion,  miss  ;**  and  once  more  she  looked  at  me,  with  undisguised  admira- 
tion of  my  extraordinary  common  sense. 

We  went,  next,  to  the  wing,  on  the  right,  which  ^vas  built,  by  way  of 
completing  the  wonderful  architectural  jumble  at  Blackwater  Park,  in  the 
time  of  George  the  Second. 

This  is  the  habitable  part  of  the  house,  which  has  been  repaired  and 
redecorated,  inside,  on  Laura's  account.  My  two  rooms,  and  all  the  good 
bedrooms  besides,  are  on  the  first  floor ;  and  the  basement  contains  a 
dr\wing-room,  a  dining-room,  a  morning-room,  a  library,  and  a  pretty 
little  boudoir  for  Laura — all  very  nicely  ornamented  in  the  bright  modern 
way,  and  all  very  elegantly  furnished  with  the  delightful  modem  luxuries. 
None  of  the  rooms  are  anything  like  so  large  and  airy  as  our  rooms  at 
liimmeridge;  but  they  all  look  pleasant  to  live  in.  I  was  terribly 
afraid,  from  what  I  had  heard  of  Blackwater  Park,  of  fatiguing  antique 
chairs,  and  dismal  stained  glass,  and  musty,  frouzy  hangings,  and  all  the 
barbarous  lumber  which  people  born  without  a  sense  of  comfort  accumulate 
about  them,  in  defiance  of  the  consideration  due  to  the  convenienca  of 
their  friends.  It  is  an  inexpressible  relief  to  find  that  the  nineteenth 
century  has  invaded  this  strange  future  home  of  mine,  and  has  swept  the 
dirty  "  good  old  times  "  out  of  the  way  of  our  daily  life. 

I  dawdled  away  the  morning — part  of  the  time  in  the  rooms  down 
stairs  ;  and  part,  out  of  doors,  in  the  great  square  which  is  formed  by  the 
three  sides  of  the  house,  and  by  the  lofty  iron  railings  and  gates  which 
protect  it  in  front.  A  large  circular  fishpond,  with  stone  sides,  and  an 
allegorical  leaden  monster  in  the  middle,  occupies  the  centre  of  the  square. 
The  pond  itself  is  full  of  gold  and  silver  fish,  and  is  encircled  by  a  broad 
belt  of  the  softest  turf  I  ever  walked  on.  I  loitered  here,  on  the  shady 
side,  pleasantly  enough,  till  luncheon  time ;  and,  after  that,  took  my  broad 
straw  hat,  and  wandered  out  alone,  in  the  warm  lovely  sunlight,  to  explore 
the  grounds. 

Daylight  confirmed  the  impression  which  I  had  felt  the  night  before,  of 
there  being  too  many  trees  at  Blackwater.  The  house  is  stifled  by  them. 
They  are,  for  the  most  part,  young,  and  planted  far  too  thickly.  I  suspect 
there  must  have  been  a  ruinous  cutting  down  of  timber,  all  over  the 
estate,  before  Sir  Percival's  time,  and  an  angry  anxiety,  on  thp  part  of  the 
next  possessor,  to  fill  up  all  the  gaps  as  thickly  and  rapidly  as  poesibla 
After  looking  about  me,  in  front  of  the  house,  I  observed  a  flower-gamea 
on  my  left  hand,  and  walked  towards  it,  to  see  what  I  could  discover  in 
that  direction. 


THE   WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  15*i 

On  a  nearer  view,  the  garden  proved  to  be  small  and  poor  and  ill-kept 
1  left  it  behind  me,  opened  a  little  gate  in  a  ring  fence,  and  found  myscU 
in  a  plantation  of  fir-trees. 

A  pretty,  winding  path,  artificially  made,  led  me  on  among  the  trees ; 
and  my  north- country  experience  soon  informed  me  that  I  was  approaching 
sandy  heathy  ground.  After  a  walk  of  more  than  half  a  mile,  I  should 
think,  among  the  firs,  the  path  took  a  sharp  turn ;  the  trees  abruptly 
ceased  to  appear  on  either  side  of  me ;  and  I  found  myself  standing  sud- 
denly on  the  margin  of  a  vast  open  space,  and  looking  down  at  the  Black- 
water  lake  from  which  the  house  talces  its  name. 

The  ground,  shelving  away  below  me,  was  all  sand,  with  a  few  little 
heathy  hillocks  to  break  the  monotony  of  it  in  certain  places.     The  lake 
itself  had  evidently  once  flowed  to  the  spot  on  which  I  stood,  and  had 
been  gradually  wasted  and  dried  up  to  less  than  a  third  of  its  former  size. 
I  saw  its  still,  stagnant  waters,  a  quarter  of  a  mile  away  from  me  in  the 
hollow,  separated  into  pools  and  ponds,  by  tvdning  reeds  and  rushes,  and 
little  knolls  of  earth.     On  the  farther  bank  from  me,  the  trees  rose  thickly 
again,  and  shut  out  the  view,  and  cast  their  black  shadows  on  the  sluggish, 
shallow  water.     As  I  walked  down  to  the  lake,  I  saw  that  the  ground  on 
its  farther  side  was  damp  and  marshy,  overgrown  with  rank  grass  and 
dismal  willows.    The  water,  which  wa»  clear  enough  on  the  open  sandy 
side,  where  the  sun  shone,  looked  black  and  poisonous  opposite  to  me, 
where  it  lay  deeper  imder  the  shade  of  the  spongy  banks,  and  the  rank 
07erhangiug  thickets  and  tangled  trees.    The  frogs  were  croaking,  and  the 
rats  were  slipping  in  and  out  of  the  shadowy  water,  like  live  shadows 
themselves,  as  I  got  nearer  to  the  marshy  side  of  the  lake.    I  saw  here, 
lying  half  in  and  half  out  of  the  water,  the  rotten  wreck  of  an  old  over- 
turned boat,  with  a  sickly  spot  of  sunlight  glimmering  through  a  gap  in 
the  trees  on  its  dry  surface,  and  a  snake  basking  in  the  midst  of  the  spot, 
fantastically  coiled,  and  treacherously  still.    Far  and  near,  the  view  sug- 
gested the  same  dreary  impressions  of  solitude  and  decay ;  and  the  glorious 
brightness  of  the  summer  sky  overhead,  seemed  only  to  deepen  and  haiden 
the  gloom  and  barrenness  of  the  wilderness  on  which  it  shone.    1  turned 
and  retraced  my  steps  to  the  high,  heathy  ground  ;  directing  them  a  little 
aside  from  my  former  path,  towards  a  shabby  old  wtxxLen  shed,  which 
stood  on  the  outer  skirt  of  the  fir  plantation,  and  which  had  hitherto  been 
too  imimportant  to  share  my  notice  with  the  wide,  wild  prospect  of  the 
lake. 

On  approaching  the  shed,  I  found  that  it  had  once  been  a  boat-house, 
and  that  an  attempt  had  apparently  been  made  to  convert  it  afterwards 
into  a  sort  of  rude  arbour,  by  placing  inside  it  a  firwood  seat,  a  few  stools, 
and  a  table.  I  entered  the  place,  and  sat  dovm  for  a  little  while,  to  real 
%nd  get  my  breath  again. 


158  THE  WOMAN  m  WHITE. 

I  bad  not  been  in  tbe  boat-bouse  more  than  a  minute,  wben  it  stnick 
me  tbat  the  sound  of  my  own  quick  breathing  was  very  strangely  echoed 
by  something  beneatb  me.  I  listened  intently  for  a  moment,  and  heard  a 
low,  thick,  sobbing  breath  that  seemed  to  come  from  the  ground  under 
the  seat  which  I  was  occupying.  My  nerves  are  not  easily  shaken  by 
trifles ;  but,  on  this  occasion,  I  started  to  my  feet  in  a  fright— called  out — 
93ceived  no  answer — summoned  back  my  recreant  courage — and  looked 
Onder  the  seat. 

There,  crouched  up  in  the  farthest  comer,  lay  the  forlorn  cause  of  my 
terror,  in  the  shape  of  a  poor  little  dog-^a  black  and  white  spaniel.  The 
creature  moaned  feebly  when  I  looked  at  it  and  called  to  it,  but  never 
stirred.  I  moved  away  the  seat  and  looked  closer.  The  poor  little  dog's 
dyes  were  glazing  fast,  and  there  were  spots  of  blood  on  its  glossy  white 
side.  The  misery  of  a  weak,  helpless,  dumb  creature  is  surely  one  of  the 
saddest  of  all  the  mournful  sights  which  this  world  can  show.  I  lifted 
the  poor  dog  in  my  arms  as  gently  as  I  could,  and  contrived  a  sort  of 
make-shift  hammock  for  him  to  lie  in,  by  gathering  up  the  front  of  my 
dress  all  round  him.  In  this  way,  I  took  the  creature,  as  painlessly  as 
possible,  and  as  fast  as  possible,  back  to  the  house. 

Finding  no  one  in  the  hall,  I  went  up  at  once  to  my  own  sitting-room, 
made  a  bed  for  the  dog  with  one  of  my  old  shawls,  and  rang  the  bell.  The 
largest  and  fattest  of  all  possible  housemaids  answered  it,  in  a  state  of 
cheerful  stupidity  which  would  have  provoked  the  patience  of  a  saint. 
The  girl's  fat,  shapeless  face  actually  stretched  into  a  broad  grin,  at  the 
sight  of  the  wounded  creature  on  the  floor. 

"  What  do  you  see  there  to  laugh  at?"  I  asked,  as  angrily  as  if  she  had 
been  a  servant  of  my  own.    "  Do  you  know  whose  dog  it  is  ?* 

"  No,  miss,  that  I  certainly  don't.**  She  stopped,  and  looked  down  at 
the  spaniel's  injured  side — ^brightened  suddenly  with  the  irradiation  of  a 
new  idea — and,  pointing  to  the  wound  with  a  chuckle  of  satisfaction,  said, 
•♦That's  Baxter's  doings,  that  is." 

I  was  so  exasperated  that  I  could  have  boxed  her  ears.  "  Baxter  ?"  I 
said.    **  Who  is  the  brute  you  call  Baxter  ?** 

The  gill  grinned  again,  more  cheerfully  than  ever.  "  Bless  you,  miss ! 
Baxter's  the  keeper ;  and  when  he  finds  strange  dogs  hunting^  about,  he 
takes  and  shoots  'em.  It*s  keeper's  dooty,  miss.  I  think  that  dc^  will 
die.  Here's  where  he's  been  shot,  ain't  it  ?  That's  Baxter's  doings,  that 
is.    Baxter's  doings,  miss,  and  Baxter's  dooty." 

I  was  almost  wicked  enough  to  wish  that  Baxter  had  shot  the  house- 
maid instead  of  the  dog.  Seeing  that  it  was  quite  useless  to  expect  this 
densely  impenetrable  personage  to  give  me  any  help  in  relieving  the 
suffering  creature  at  our  feet,  I  told  her  to  request  the  housekeeper's 
%ltendanoe  with  my  compliments.    She  went  out  exactly  as  she  had  come 


rHG  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  159 

kt  grthnfag  from  ear  to  ear.  As  tbe  door  doeed  on  her,  she  said  to 
benelfy  softly,  "It's  BoxWs  doinga  and  Baxter's  dooty — that's  what 
it  is/' 

The  housekeeper,  a  person  of  some  education  and  intelligence,  thought- 
kUj  brought  up-stairs  with  her  some  milk  and  some  warm  water. 
The  instant  she  saw  the  dog  on  the  floor,  she  started  and  changed  ooloiu:. 

*' Why,  Lord  bless  me,"  cried  the  housekeeper,  **that  must  be  Mrs 
Catherick's  dog  T 

"Whose  ?**  I  asked,  in  the  utmost  astonishment. 

"Mrs.  Gatherick's.  You  6eem  to  know  Mrs.  Cathenck,  Miss  Hal« 
combe?" 

*  Kot  personally.  But  I  have  heard  of  her.  Does  she  live  here  ?  Has 
she  bad  any  news  of  her  dau^ter  ?" 

"  1^0,  Miss  Halcombe.    She  oame  here  to  ask  for  news." 

"When?" 

"Only  yesterday.  She  said  some  one  had  reported  that  a  stranger 
jnswering  to  the  description  of  her  daughter  had  been  seen  in  our  neigh- 
bourhood. No  such  report  has  reached  us  here ;  and  no  such  report  was 
known  in  the  village,  when  I  sent  to  make  inquiries  there  on  Mrs. 
Gatherick's  account.  She  certainly  brought  this  poor  little  dog  with  her 
when  she  came ;  and  I  saw  it  trot  out  after  her  when  she  went  away.  I 
suppose  the  creature  strayed  into  the  plantatiom^  and  got  shot.  Where 
did  you  find  it,  Miss  Halcombe  ?" 

"In  the  old  shed  that  looks  out  on  the  lake." 

"  Ah,  yes,  that  is  the  plantation  side,  and  the  poor  thing  dragged  itself, 
I  suppose,  to  the  nearest  shelter,  as  dogs  will,  to  die.  If  you  can  moisten 
its  lips  with  the  nulk.  Miss  Halcombe,  I  will  wash  the  clotted  hair  from 
the  wound.  I  am  very  much  afraid  it  is  too  late  to  do  any  good.  Howeyer 
we  can  but  try." 

Mrs.  Gatherick !  The  name  still  rang  in  my  ears,  as  if  the  housekeeper 
had  only  that  moment  surprised  me  by  uttering  it.  While  we  were 
attending  to  the  dog,  the  words  of  Walter  Hartright's  caution  to  me 
returned  to  my  memory.  **  If  ever  Anne  Gatherick  crosses  your  path, 
make  better  use  of  the  opportunity,  Miss  Halcombe,  than  I  made  of  it." 
The  finding  of  the  wounded  spaniel  had  led  me  already  to  the  discovery  of 
Mrs.  Gatherick'&visit  to  Blackwater  Park  ;  and  that  event  might  lead,  in 
its  turn,  to  eomething.  more.  I  determined  to  make  the  most  of  the 
chance  which  was  now  offered  to  me,  and  to  gain  as  much  information  as  I 
could. 

"  Did  you  say  that  Mrs.  Gatherick  lived  anywhere  in  this  neighbour- 
hoodriasked.    . 

"Oh,  dear^  no,"  said  the  housekeeper.  "She  lives  at  Welmingham j 
quite  at  the  other  end  of  the  county^five-and-twenty  miles  ofif  at  least." 


100  THE  WOMAN    IN    WH1T2. 

**  1  suppose  you  have  known  Mrs.  Oatheriok  for  some  years  ?" 

*'  On  the  contrary,  Miss  Haky>mbe :  I  never  saw  her  before  she  came 
neve,  yesterday.  1  had  heard  of  her,  of  course,  because  I  had  heard  of  Sir 
Tcrcival's  kindness  in  putting  her  daughter  under  medical  care.  Mrs. 
Catherick  is  rather  a  strange  person  in  her  manners,  but  extremely 
resi)ectable-looking.  She  seemed  sorely  put  out,  when  she  found  that 
there  was  no  foundation — none,  at  least,  that  any  of  tis  could  discover — for 
the  report  of  her  daughter  having  been  seen  in  this  neighbourhood." 

'^  I  am  rather  interested  about  Mrs.  Catlierick,"  I  went  on,  continuing 
the  conversation  as  long  as  possible.  *'  I  wish  I  had  arrived  here  soon 
enough  to  see  her  yesterday.     Did  slie  stay  for  any  length  of  time  ?" 

*'  Yes,"  said  the  housekeeper,  ^*  she  stayed  for  some  time.  And  I  think 
she  would  have  remained  longer,  if  I  had  not  been  called  away  to  speak  to 
a  sti*ange  gentleman — a  gentleman  who  came  to  ask  when  Sir  Percival 
was  expected  back.  Mrs.  Catherick  got  up  and  left  at  once,  when  she 
heard  the  maid  tell  me  what  the  visitor's  errand  was.  She  said  to  me,  at 
I)arting,  that  there  was  no  need  to  tell  Sir  Percival  of  her  coming  here.  1 
thought  that  rather  an  odd  remark  to  make,  especially  to  a  person  in  my 
responsible  situation." 

I  thought  it  an  odd  remark,  too.  Sir  Percival  had  certainly  led  me  to 
believe,  at  Limmeridge,  that  the  most  perfect  confidence  existed  between 
himself  and  Mrs.  Catherick.  If  that  was  the  case,  why  should  she  be 
anxious  to  have  her  visit  at  Blackwater  Park  kept  a  secret  from  him  ? 

*'  Probably,"  1  said,  seeing  that  the  housekeeper  expected  me  to  give  my 
opinion  on  Mrs.  Catherick's  parting  words ;  •*  probably,  she  thought  the 
announcement  of  her  visit  might  vex  Sir  Percival  to  no  purpose,  by  remind- 
ing him  that  her  lost  daughter  was  not  found  yet.  Did  she  talk  much  on 
that  subject  ?*' 

"  Very  little,"  replied,  the  housekeeper.  "  She  talked  principally  of  Sir 
Percival,  and  asked  a  great  many  questions  about  where  he  had  been  travel- 
ling, and  what  sort  of  lady  his  new  wife  was.  She  seemed  to  be  more  soured 
and  put  out  than  distressed,  by  failing  to  find  any  traces  of  her  daughter 
in  these  parts.  *  I  give  her  up,*  were  the  last  words  she  said  that  I  can 
remember ;  *  I  give  her  up,  ma'am,  for  lost.'  And  from  that,  she  passed  at 
once  to  her  questions  about  Lady  Clyde ;  wanting  to  know  if  she  was  a 

handsome,  amiable  lady,  comely  and  healthy  and  young Ah,  dear !     I 

thought  how  it  would  end.    Look,  Miss  Halcombc !  the  poor  thing  is  out 
of  its  misery  at  last  1" 

The  dog  was  dead.  It  had  given  a  faint,  sobbing  cry,  it  had  suffered  an 
instant's  convulsion  of  the  limbs,  just  as  those  last  words,  **  comely  and 
healthy  and  young,"  dropped  from  the  housekeeper's  lips.  The  change  had 
liapi)ened  with  startling  suddenness — in  one  moment  the  creature  lay  lifo- 
I'^'s  under  our  hands. 


TBS  WOMilN   IN   WHITE.  161 

Ei^t  o'clock.  1  have  just  retamed  from  dining  dorm  stairs,  in  solitary 
itate.  The  suaadt*  is  burning  redly  on  the  wilderness  of  trees  that  I  see 
from  my  window  f  mmSt- 1  am  poring  over  my  journal  again,  to  calm  my 
impatience  for  tiso  xdlom  of  the  travellers.  They  ought  to  have  arrived, 
by  my  calcnlationB,  before  this.  How  still  and  lonely  the  house  is  in  the 
dfuwsy  evening  quiet  1  Oh,  me  I  how  many  minutes  more  before  I  hear 
the  carriage  wheels  and  run  down  stairs  to  find  myself  in  Laura's  arms? 

The  poo»  litiie  dog!  I  wish  my  first  day  at  Blackwater  Park  had 
not  been  associated  with  death — ^though  it  is  only  the  death  of  a  stray 
animaL   '•  '       >  - 

Welmingham — I  see,  on  looking  back  through  these  private  pages  of 
mine,  that  Welmin^iain  is  the  name  of  the  place  where  Mrs.  Gatherick 
lives.  Her  note  is  still  in  my  possession,  the  note  in  answer  to  that  letter 
about  her  imha^y  daughter  which  Sir  Percival  obliged  me  to  write.  One 
of  these  days,  when -I  can  find  a  safe  opportunity,  I  v/ill  take  the  note  with 
me  by  way  of  introduction,  and  try  what  I  can  make  of  Mrs.  Gatherick  at 
a  personal  interview.'  I  don't  understand. her  wishing  to  conceal  her  visit 
to  this  .plauce  from  Sir  Percival's  knowledge;  and  I  don't  feel  half  so  sure, 
as  the  Hou^keeper  seems  to  do,  that  her  daughter  Anne  is  not  in  the 
neighbourhood,  after  all.  What  would  Walter  Hartright  have  said  in  this 
emeigehcyi?^'  Poor,  dear  Hartright !  J  am  beginning  to  feel  the  want  of 
his  honest  advice  and, his  willing  help,  already. 

Surely,  I  heard'  something.  "Was  it  a  bustle  of  footsteps  below  stairs  ? 
Yes  1  I  hear  the  horses'  feet ;  I  hear  the  rolling  wheels — 

•       •  /  II. 

June  15th — ^The  confusion  of  their  arrival  has  had  time  to  subside.  Two 
days  have  elapsed' since  the  return  of  the  travellers ;  and  that  interval  has 
sufficed  to  put  the  hew  machinery  of  our  lives  at  Blackwater  Park  in  fair 
working  order.  I  may  now  return  to  my  journal,  with  some  little  chance 
of  being  able  to  continue  the  entries  in  it  as  collectedly  as  usual. 

I  think  I  niust  begin  by  putting  down  an  odd  remark,  which  has  sug- 
gested itself  to  me  since  Laura  came  back. 

When  two  members  of  a  family,  or  two  intimate  friends,  are  separated, 
and  one  goes  abroad  and  one  remains  at  home,  the  return  of  the  relative  or 
friend  who  has  been  tiuvelling,  always  seems  to  place  the  relative  or  friend 
who  has  been '  stnying  at  home  at  a  painful  disadvantage,  when  the  two 
first  meet  The  sudden  encounter  of  the  new  thoughts  and  new  habits 
eagerly  gained  in  the  one  cose,  with  the  old  thoughts  and  old  habits 
passively  preserved  in  the  other,  seems,  at  first,  to  part  the  sympathies  of 
the  most  loving  relatives  and  the  fondest  friends,  and  to  set  a  sudden 
•trongenesB,  unexpected  by  both  and  uncontrollable  by  both,  between  them 
on  oithei  side,     i^^r  the  first  happiness  of  my  meeting  witli  Laura  wac 


162  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE 

over,  after  we  had  sat  down  together,  hand  in  hand,  to  recover  breath 
enough  and  calmness  enough  to  talk,  I  felt  this  strangeness  instantly,  and 
I  could  see  that  she  felt  it  too.  It  has  partially  worn  away,  now  that  we 
have  fallen  back  into  most  of  our  old  habits ;  and  it  will  probably  disappear 
before  long.  But  it  has  certainly  had  an  influence  over  the  first  impres- 
sions that  I  have  formed  of  her,  now  that  we  are  living  together  again-^fbr 
which  reason  only  I  have  thought  fit  to  mention  it  here. 

She  has  found  me  unaltered ;  but  I  have  found  her  changed. 

Changed  in  person,  and,  in  one  respect,  changed  in  character.  I  cannot 
absolutely  say  that  she  is  less  beautiful  than  she  used  to  be :  I  can  only 
say  that  she  is  less  beautiful  to  me. 

Others,  who  do  not  look  at  her  with  my  eyes  and  my  recollections,  would 
probably  think  her  improved.  Thera  is  more  colour,  and  more  decision 
and  roundness  of  outline  in  her  face  than  there  used  to  be ;  and  her  figure 
seems  more  firmly  set,  and  more  sure  and  easy  in  all  its  movements  than 
it  was  in  her  maiden  days.  But  I  miss  something  when  I  look  at  her — 
something  that  once  belonged  to  the  happy,  innocent  life  of  Laura  Fairlie, 
and  that  I  cannot  find  in  Lady  Glyde.  There  was,  in  the  old  times,  a 
freshness,  a  softness,  an  ever-varyiug  and  yet  ever-remaining  tenderness  <tf 
oeauty  in  her  face,  the  charm  of  which  it  is  not  possible  to  express  in  words 
»-or,  as  poor  Hartright  used  often  to  say,  in  painting,  either.  This  is  gone. 
[  thought  I  saw  the  faint  reflexion  of  it,  for  a  moment,  when  she  turned  pale 
under  the  agitation  of  our  sudden  meeting,  on  the  evening  of  her  return ; 
but  it  has  never  reappeared  since.  None  of  her  letters  had  prepared  me 
for  a  personal  change  in  her.  On  the  contrary,  they  had  led  me  to  expect 
that  her  marriage  had  left  her,  in  appearance  at  least,  quite  unaltered. 
Perhaps,  I  read  her  letters  Wrongly,  in  the  past,  and  am  now  readihg  her 
fiace  wrongly,  in  the  present?  No  matter  1  Whether  her  beauty  has 
gained,  or  whether  it  has  lost,  in  the  last  six  months,  the  separation,  either 
way,  has  made  her  own  dear  self  more  precious  to  me  than  ever — and  that 
is  one  good  result  of  her  marriage,  at  any  rate ! 

The  second  change,  the  change  that  I  have  observed  in  her  character, 
has  not  surprised  me,  because  I  was  prepared  for  it,  in  this  case,  by  the 
tone  of  her  letters.  Now  that  she  is  at  home  again,  I  find  her  just  as 
unwilling  to  enter  into  any  details  on  the  subject  of  her  married  Ufe,  as  I 
had  previously  found  her,  all  through  the  time  of  our  separation,  when  we 
could  only  communicate  with  each  other  by  writing.  At  the  first  approach 
I  made  to  the  forbidden  topic,  she  put  her  hand  on  my  lips,  with  a  look 
and  gesture  which  touchingly,  almost  painfully,  recalled  to  my  memory 
the  days  of  her  girlhood  and  the  happy  bygone  time  when  there  were  no 
secrets  between  us. 

«  Whenever  you  and  I  are  together  Marian,"  she  said,  '*  we  shall  both  be 
tippler  and  easier  with  one  another,  if  we  accept  my  manied  life  for  what 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITK.  169 

U  ia,  and  say  and  think  as  little  about  it  as  possible.    I  would  tell  yon 
everything,  darling;,  about  myself,"  she  went  on,  nervously  buckling  and 
Tmbuckling  the  ribbon  round  my  waist,  "  if  my  confidences  could  only  end 
there.    But  they  could  not — ^they  would  lead  me  into  confidences  about 
my  husband,  too ;  and,  now  I  am  married,  I  think  I  had  better  avoid 
tiiem,  for  bis  sake,  and  for  your  sake,  and  for  mine.    I  don't  say  that  they 
would  distress  you,  or  distress  me — ^I  wouldn't  have  you  think  that  for  the 
world.    But — I  want  to  be  so  happy,  now  I  have  got  you  back  again ; 
and  I  want  you  to  be  so  happy  too—"    She  broke  ofif  abruptly,  and 
looked  round  the  room,  my  ovm  sitting-room,  in  which  we  were  talking. 
"  Ah  I"  she  cried,  clapping  her  hands  with  a  bright'  smile  of  recognition, 
"  another  old  friend  found  already  I    Your  bookcase,  Marian — ^your  dear- 
little-shabby-old-satin-wood  bookcase — how  glad  I  am  you  brought  it 
with  you  from  Limmeridge  I    And  the  horrid,  heavy,  man's  umbrella,  that 
you  fldways  would  walk  out  with  when  it  rained  1    And,  first  and  foremost 
of  all,  your  own  dear,  dark,  clever,  gipsy-face,  looking  at  me  just  as  usual  I 
It  is  so  like  home  again  to  be  here.    How  can  we  make  it  more  like  home 
still?    I  will  put  my  father's  portrait  in  your  room  instead  of  in  mine— 
and  I  will  keep  all  my  little  treasures  from  Limmeridge  here — ^and  we  will 
pass  hours  and  hours  every  day  with  these  four  friendly  walls  round  us. 
Oh,  Marian !"  she  said,  suddenly  seating  herself  on  a  footstool  at  my  knees, 
and  looking  up  earnestly  in  my  face,  "  promise  you  will  never  marry,  and 
leave  me.     It  is  selfish  to  say  so,  but  you  are  so  much  better  ofif  as  a 
single  woman — unless — ^unless  you  are  very  fond  of  your  husband— but 
yoTi  won't  be  very  fond  of  anybody  but  me,  will  you  ?"   She  stopped  again ; 
crossed  my  hands  on  my  lap ;  and  laid  her  face  on  them.     **  Have  you 
been  writing  many  letters,  and  receiving  many  letters,  lately?"  she  asked, 
in  low,  suddenly-altered  tones.    I  understood  what  the  question  meant ; 
but  I  thought  it  my  duty  not  to  encourage  her  by  meeting  her  half  way. 
^  Have  you  heard  from  him  ?"  she  went  on,  coaxing  me  to  forgive  the 
more  direct  appeal  on  which  she  now  ventured,  by  kissing  my  hands,  upon 
which  her  face  still  rested.    "  Is  he  well  and  happy,  and  getting  on  in  his 
profession?    Has  he  recovered  himself— and  forgotten  me ?" 

She  should  not  have  asked  those  questions.  She  should  have  remem* 
bered  her  own  resolution,  on  the  morning  when  Sir  Percival  held  her  to 
her  marriage  engagement,  and  when  she  resigned  the  book  of  Hartright's 
drawings  into  my  hands  for  ever.  But,  ah  me !  where  is  the  faultless 
human  creature  who  can  persevere  in  a  good  resolution,  without  some- 
times failing  and  falling  back?  Where  is  the  woman  who  has  ever  really 
torn  from  her  heart  the  image  that  has  been  once  fixed  in  it  by  a  true 
love?  Books  tell  us  that  such  unearthly  creatures  have  existed — ^but  what 
does  our  own  experience  say  in  answer  to  books  ? 

J  made  no  att  3mpt  to  remonstrate  with  her :  perhaps,  because  I  sincerely 


164  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

appreciated  the  fearless  candour  which  let  me  see,  what  other  ii*(Huen  in 
her  position  might  have  had  reasons  for  concealing  even  from  their  dearest 
friends — perhaps,  because  I  felt,  in  my  own  heart  and  conscience,  that,  in 
her  place  I  should  have  asked  the  same  questions  and  had  the  same 
thoughts.  All  I  could  honestly  do  was  to  reply  that  I  had  not  written  to 
him  or  heard  from  him  lately,  and  then  to  turn  the  conversation  to  less 
dangerous  topics. 

There  has  been  much  to  sadden  me  in  our  interview — ^my  first  confi- 
dential interview  with  her  since  her  return.  The  change  which  her  mar- 
riage has  produced  in  our  relations  towards  each  other,  by  placing  a  forbidden 
subject  between  us,  for  the  first  time  in  our  lives ;  the  melancholy  convic- 
tion of  the  dearth  of  all  warmth  of  feeling,  of  all  close  sympathy,  between  her 
husband  and  herself,  which  her  own  unwilling  words  now  force  on  my 
mind ;  the  distressing  discovery  that  the  influence  of  that  ill-£Eited  attach- 
ment still  remains  (no  matter  how  innocently,  how  harmlessly)  rooted  as 
deeply  as  ever  in  her  heart — all  these  are  disclosures  to  sadden  any  woman 
who  loves  her  as  dearly,  and  feels  for  her  as  acutely,  as  I  do. 

There  is  only  one  consolation  to  set  against  them — a  consolation  that 
ought  to  comfort  me,  and  that  does  comfort  me.  All  the  graces  and 
gentlenesses  of  her  character ;  all  the  frank  affection  of  her  nature ;  all  the 
sweet,  simple,  womanly  charms  which  used  to  make  her  the  darling  and 
delight  of  every  one  who  approached  her,  have  come  back  to  me  with  her- 
self. Of  my  other  impressions  I  am  sometimes  a  little  inclined  to  doubt. 
Of  this  last,  best,  happiest  of  all  impressions,  I  grow  more  and  more 
certain,  every  hour  in  the  day. 

Let  me  turn,  now,  from  her  to  her  travelling  companions.  Her  husband 
must  engage  my  attention  first.  What  have  I  observed  in  Sir  Fercival, 
since  his  return,  to  improve  my  opinion  of  him  ? 

I  can  hardly  say.  Small  vexations  and  annoyances  seem  to  have  beset 
him  since  he  came  back :  and  no  man,  under  those  circumstances,  is  ever 
presented  at  his  best.  He  looks,  as  I  think,  thinner  than  he  was  when  he 
left  England.  His  wearisome  cough  and  his  comfortless  restlessness  have 
certainly  Increased.  His  manner — at  least,  his  manner  towards  me— is 
much  more  abrupt  than  it  used  to  be.  He  greeted  me,  on  the  evening  of 
his  return,  with  little  or  nothing  of  the  ceremony  and  civility  of  former 
times — no  polite  speeches  of  welcome — ^no  appearance  of  extraordinary 
gratification  at  seeing  me — nothing  but  a  short  shake  of  the  hand,  and  a 
sharp  "  How-d'ye-do,  Miss  Halcombe^glad  to  see  you  again."  He  seemed 
to  accept  me  as  one  of  the  necessary  fixtures  of  Blackwater  Park ;  to  be 
satisfied  at  finding  me  established  in  my  proper  place ;  and  then  to  pass 
me  over  altogether. 

Most  men  show  something  of  their  dispositiQiis  in  their  own  housesi, 
which  iaey  have  concealed  elsewhere ;  and  Sir  Perdval  has  already  dis- 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITB.  165 

played  a  mania  for  order  and  regularity,  whicli  is  quite  a  new  revelation  of 
him,  so  far  as  my  previous  knowledge  of  bis  character  is  concerned.  If  I 
take  a  book  from  the  library  and  leave  it  on  the  table,  he  follows  me,  and 
pats  it  back  again.  If  I  rise  from  a  chair,  and  let  it  remain  where  I  have 
been  sitting,  he  carefully  restores  it  to  its  proper  place  against  the  wall. 
He  picks  up  stray  flower-blossoms  from  the  carpet,  and  mutters  to  himself 
as  discontentedly  as  if  they  were  hot  cinders  burning  holes  in  it ;  and  he 
storms  at  the  servants,  if  there  is  a  crease  in  the  tablecloth,  or  a  knife 
missing  from  its  place  at  the  dinner-table,  as  fiercely  as  if  they  had  per- 
sonally insulted  him. 

I  have  already  referred  to  the  small  annoyances  which  appear  to  have 
troubled  him  since  his  return.  Much  of  the  alteration  for  the  worse  which 
I  have  noticed  in  him,  may  be  due  to  these.  I  try  to  persuade  myself  that 
it  is  so,  because  I  am  anxious  not  to  be  disheartened  already  about  the 
future.  It  is  certainly  trying  to  any  man's  temper  to  be  met  by  a  vexar 
tiun  the  moment  he  sets  foot  in  his  own  house  again,  after  a  long  absence ; 
and  this  annoying  circumstance  did  really  happen  to  Sir  Percival  in  my 
presence. 

On  the  evening  of  their  arrival,  the  housekeeper  followed  me  into  the 
hall  to  receive  her  master  and  mistress  and  thtsir  guests.  The  instant  he 
saw  her.  Sir  Percival  asked  if  any  one  had  called  lately.  The  housekeeper 
mentioned  to  him,  in  reply,  what  she  had  previously  mentioned  to  me,  the 
visit  of  the  strange  gentleman  to  make  inquiries  about  the  time  of  her 
master's  return.  He  asked  immediately  for  the  gentleman's  name.  Ko 
name  had  been  left.  The  gentleman's  business  ?  Ko  business  had  been 
mentioned.  What  was  the  gentleman  like?  The  housekeeper  tried  to 
describe  him ;  but  &iled  to  distinguish  the  nameless  visitor  by  any  personal 
peculiarity  which  her  master  could  recognize.  Sir  Percival  frowned, 
stamped  angrily  on  the  floor,  and  walked  on  into  the  house,  taking  no 
notice  of  anybody.  Why  he  should  have  been  so  discomposed  by  a  trifle  I 
cannot  say — ^but  he  was  seriously  discomposed,  beyond  all  doubt. 

Upon  tiie  whole,  it  will  be  best,  perhaps,  if  I  abstain  from  forming  a 
decisive  opinion  of  his  manners,  language,  and  conduct  in  his  own  house, 
nntil  time  has  enabled  him  to  shake  off  the  anxieties,  whatever  they  may 
be,  which  now  evidently  trouble  his  mind  in  secret.  I  will  turn  over  to  a 
new  page ;  and  my  pen  shall  let  Laura's  husband  alone  for  the  present. 

The  two  guests — ^the  Count  and  Countess  Fosco— come  next  in  my  cata- 
logue. I  will  dispose  of  the  Countess  first,  so  as  to  have  done  with  the 
woman  as  soon  as  possible. 

Laura  was  certainly  not  chargeable  with  any  exaggeration,  in  writing  me 
word  that  I  should  hardly  recognise  her  aunt  again,  when  we  met.  Never 
before  have  I  beheld  such  a  change  produced  in  a  woman  by  her  marriage 
as  has  been  produced  in  Madame  Fosco, 


166  THE  WOMAH  IN  WHITE. 

As  Eleanor  Fairlie  (aged  ieyen-and-thirty),  she  was  always  talking  pre* 
tcntious  nonsense,  and  always  worrying  the  unfortunate  men  with  every 
small  exaction  which  a  vain  and  foolish  woman  can  impose  on  long-suffer- 
ing male  humanity.    As  Madame  Fosco  (aged  three-and-forty),  she  site 
for  hours  together  without  saying  a  word,  frozen  up  in  the  strangest 
manner  in  herself.     The  hideously  ridiculous  love-locks  which  used  to 
hang  on  either  side  of  her  face,  are  now  replaced  by  stiff  little  rows  of  very 
short  curls,  of  the  sort  that  one  sees  in  old-fashioned  wigs.    A  plain, 
matronly  cap  covers  her  head,  and  makes  her  look,  for  the  first  time  in  her 
life,  since  I  remember  her,  like  a  decent  woman.    Nobody  (putting  her 
husband  out  of  the  question,  of  course)  now  sees  in  her,  what  everybody 
once  saw — ^I  mean  the  structure  of  the  female  skeleton,  in  the  upper 
regions  of  the  collar-bones  and  the  shoulder-blades.    Clad  in  quiet  black  or 
gray  gowns,  made  high  round  the  throat— dresses  that  she  would  have 
laughed  at,  or  screamed  at,  as  the  whim  of  the  moment  inclined  her,  in  her 
maiden  days — ^she  sits  speechless  in  comers ;  her  dry  white  hands  (so  dry 
that  the  pores  of  her  skin  look  chalky)  incessantly  engaged,  either  in 
monotonous  embroidery  work,  or  in  rolling  up  endless  little  cigarettes  for 
the  Count's  own  particular  smoking.    On  the  few  occasions  when  her  cold 
blue  eyes  are  off  her  work,  they  are  generally  turned  on  her  husband,  with 
the  look  of  mute  submissive  inquiry  which  we  are  all  familiar  with  in  the 
eyes  of  a  faithful  dog.    The  only  approach  to  an  inward  thaw  which  I  have 
yet  detected  under  her  outer  covering  of  icy  constraint,  has  betrayed  itself, 
once  or  twice,  in  the  form  of  a  suppressed  tigerish  jealousy  of  any  woman 
in  the  house  (the  maids  included)  to  whom  the  Count  speaks,  or  on  whom 
he  looks  with  anything  approaching  to  special  interest  or  attention.    Ex- 
cept in  this  one  particular,  she  is  always,  morning,  noon,  and  night,  in- 
doors and  out,  fair  weather  or  foul,  as  cold  as  a  statue,  and  as  impenetrable 
as  the  stone  out  of  which  it  is  cut.     For  the  common  purposes  of  society 
the  extraordinary  change  thus  produced  in  her,  is,  beyond  all  doubt,  a 
change  for  the  better,  seeing  that  it  has  transformed  her  into  a  civil,  silent, 
unobtrusive  woman,  who  is  never  in  the  way.    How  far  she  is  really  re- 
formed or  deteriorated  in  her  secret  self,  is  another  question.    I  have  once 
or  twice  seen  sudden  changes  of  expression  on  her  pinched  lips,  and  heard 
sudden  inflexions  of  tone  in  her  calm  voice,  which  have  led  me  to  suspect 
that  her  present  state  of  suppression  may  have    sealed  up  something 
dangerous  in  her  nature,  which  used  to  evaporate  harmlessly  in  the  freedom 
of  her  former  life.    It  is  quite  possible  that  I  may  be  altogether  wrong  in  this 
idea.    My  own  impression,  however,  is,  that  I  am  r^t.    Time  will  show. 
And  the  magician  who  has  wrought  this  wonderful  trausformatien — ^the 
foreign  husband  who  has  tamed  this  once  wayward  Englishwoman  tili^r 
own  lelatioDS  hardly  know  her  again — ^the  Count  himself?    What  of  w 
Count? 


THE   WOMAN    tN   WHITE.  167 

This,  in  two  words :  He  looks  like  a  man  who  could  tame  anything.  If 
he  had  married  a  tigress,  instead  of  a  woman,  he  would  have  tamed  the 
tigress.  If  he  had  married  me^  I  should  have  made  his  cigarettes  as  his 
ivife  does — I  should  have  held  my  tongue  when  he  looked  at  me,  as  she 
holds  hers. 

I  am  almost  afraid  to  confess  it,  even  to  these  secret  pages.  The  man 
has  interested  me,  has  attracted  me,  has  forced  me  to  like  him.  In  two 
short  days,  he  has  made  his  way  straight  into  my  favourable  estimation— 
^  how  he  has  worked  the  miracle,  is  more  tlian  I  can  tell. 

It  absolutely  startles  me,  now  he  is  in  my  mind,  to  find  how  plainly  I 
see  him ! — ^how  much  more  plainly  than  I  see  Sir  Percival,  or  Mr.  Fairlie, 
or  Walter  Hartrighty  or  any  other  absent  person  of  whom  I  think,  with  the 
one  exception  of  Laura  herself!  I  can  hear  his  voice,  as  if  he  was  speaking 
at  this  moment,  I  know  what  his  conversation  was  yesterday,  as  well  ha 
if  I  was  hearing  it  now.  How  am  I  to  describe  him  ?  There  are  pecu- 
liarities in  his  personal  appearance,  his  habits,  and  his  amusements,  which  I 
should  blame  in  the  boldest  terms,  or  ridicule  in  the  most  merciless  man- 
ner, if  I  had  seen  them  in  another  man.  What  is  it  that  makes  me  unable 
to  blame  them,  or  to  ridicule  them  in  him  f 

For  example,  he  is  immensely  fat.  Before  this  time,  I  have  always 
especially  disliked  corpulent  humanity.  I  have  always  maintained  that 
the  popular  notion  of  connecting  excessive  grossness  of  size  and  excessive 
good-humour  as  inseparable  allies,  was  equivalent  to  declaring,  either  that 
ao  people  but  amiable  people  ever  get  fat,  or  that  the  accidental  addition 
of  so  many  pounds  of  flesh  has  a  directly  favourable  influence  over  the  dis- 
position of  the  person  on  whose  body  they  accumulate.  I  have  invariably 
combated  both  these  absurd  assertions  by  quoting  examples  of  fat  people 
who  were  as  mean,  vicious,  and  cruel,  as  the  leanest  and  the  worst  of  their 
neighbours.  I  have  asked  whether  Henry  the  Eighth  was  an  amiable 
character  ?  whether  Pope  Alexander  the  Sixth  was  a  good  man  ?  Whether 
Mr.  Murderer  and  Mrs.  Murderess  Manning  were  not  both  unusually  stout 
people  ?  Whether  hired  nurses,  proverbially  as  cruel  a  set  of  women  as 
are  to  be  found  in  all  England,  were  not,  for  the  most  part,  also  as  fat  a  set 
of  women  as  are  to  be  found  in  all  England  ? — and  so  on,  through  dozens 
of  other  examples,  modern  and  ancient,  native  and  foreign,  high  and 
low.  Holding  these  strong  opinions  on  the  subject  with  might  and  main, 
as  I  do  at  this  moment,  here,  nevertheless,  is  Coimt  Fosco,  as  &t  as 
Henry  the  Eighth  himself,  established  in  my  favour,  at  one  day's  notice, 
idthout  let  or  hindrance  from  his  own  odious  corpulence.  Marvellous 
indeed !  -* 
IsJ^  his  face  that  has  recommended  him  ? 

a  may  be  his  face.  He  is  a  most  remarkable  likeness,  on  a  large  scale, 
of  the  Great  Napoleon.    His  features  have  Napoleon's  magnificent  reg>i 


lf>8  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

larity  :  his  expression  recalls  the  graudly  calm,  immovable  power  of  the 
Great  Soldier's  face.  This  striking  resemblance  certainly  impressed  me,  to 
begin  with  ;  but  there  is  something  in  him  besides  the  resemblance,  which 
has  impressed  me  more.  I  think  the  influence  I  am  now  trying  to  find,  is 
in  his  eyes.  They  are  the  most  unfathomable  gray  eyes  I  ever  saw :  and 
they  have  at  times  a  cold,  dear,  beautiful,  irresistible  glitter  in  them, 
which  forces  me  to  look  at  him,  and  yet  causes  me  sensations,  when  I  do 
look,  which  I  would  rather  not  feel.  Other  parts  of  his  face  and  head  have 
their  strange  peculiarities.  His  complexion,  for  instance,  has  a  singular 
sallow-fairness,  so  much  at  variance  with  the  dark-brown  colour  of  his  hair, 
that  I  suspect  the  hair  of  being  a  wig ;  and  his  face,  closely  shaven  all 
over,  is  smoother  and  freer  from  all  marks  and  wrinkles  than  mine,  though 
(according  to  Sir  Percival's  account  of  him)  he  is  close  on  sixty  years  of 
age.  But  these  are  not  the  prominent  personal  characteristics  which  dis- 
tinguish him,  to  my  mind,  from  all  the  other  men  I  have  ever  seen.  The 
marked  peculiarity  which  singles  him  out  from  the  rank  and  file  of  hu- 
manity, lies  entirely,  so  far  as  1  can  tell  at  present,  in  the  extraordinary 
expression  and  extraordinary  power  of  his  eyes. 

His  manner,  and  his  command  of  our  language,  may  also  have  assisted 
him,  in  some  degree,  to  establish  himself  in  my  good  opinion.  He  has  that 
quiet  deference,  that  look  of  pleased,  attentive  interest,  in  listening  to  a 
woman,  and  that  secret  gentleness  in  his  voice,  in  speaking  to  a  woman, 
which,  say  what  We  may,  we  can  none  of  us  resist.  Here,  too,  his  unusual 
command  of  the  English  language  necessarily  helps  him.  I  had  often 
heard  of  the  extraordinary  aptitude  which  many  Italians  show  in  mastering 
our  strong,  hard,  Northern  speech ;  but,  until  I  saw  Count  Fosco,  I  had 
never  supposed  it  possible  that  any  foreigner  could  have  spoken  English  as 
he  speaks  it.  There  are  times  when  it  is  almost  impossible  to  detect,  by 
his  accent,  that  he  is  not  a  countryman  of  our  own ;  and,  as  for  fluency, 
there  are  very  few  born  Englishmen  who  can  talk  with  as  few  stoppages 
and  repetitions  as  the  Count.  He  may  construct  his  sentences,  more  or 
less,  in  the  foreign  way ;  but  I  have  never  yet  heard  him  use  a  wrong  ex- 
pression, or  hesitate  for  a  moment  in  his  choice  of  a  word. 

All  the  smallest  characteristics  of  this  strange  man  have  something 
strikingly  original  and 'perplexingly  contradictory  in  them.  Fat  as  he  is, 
and  old  as  he  is,  his  movements  are  astonishingly  light  and  easy.  He  is  as 
noiseless  in  a  room  as  any  of  us  women ;  and,  more  than  that,  with  all  his 
look  of  unmistakable  mental  firmness  and  power,  he  is  as  nelrvonsly  sensi- 
tive as  the  weakest  of  us.  He  starts  at  chance  noises  as  inveterately  as 
Laura  herself.  He  winced  and  shuddered  yesterday,  when  Sir  Percival 
beat  one  of  the  spaniels,  so  that  I  felt  ashamed  of  my  own  want  of  tender- 
ness and  sensibility,  by  comparison  with  the  Count. 

The  relation  of  this  last  incident  reminds  me  of  one  of  his  most  carious 


THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE.  16'J 

peculiarities,  which  I  have  not  yet  mnntioncd — ^his  extraordinary  fonducss 
lor  pet  animals. 

Some  of  these  he  has  left  on  tlie  Continent,  but  he  has  brought  with  him 
to  this  house  a  cockatoo,  two  canary-birds,  and  a  whole  family  of  white 
mice.  He  attends  to  all  the  necessities  of  these  strange  favourites  himself, 
uid  he  has  taught  the  creatures  to  be  surprisingly  fond  of  him,  and  familiar 
with  him.  The  cockatoo,  a  most  vicious  and  treacherous  bird  towards 
evciy  one  else,  absolutely  seems  to  love  him.  When  he  lets  it  out  of  its 
cage,  it  hops  on  to  his  knee,  and  claws  its  way  up  his  great  big  body,  and 
rubs  its  top-knot  against  his  sallow  double  chin  in  the  most  caressing  man- 
ner imaginable.  He  has  only  to  set  the  doors  of  the  canaries'  cages  open, 
and  to  call  them ;  and  the  pretty  little  cleverly  trained  creatures  perch 
fearlessly  on  his  hand,  mount  his  fat  outstretched  fingers  one  by  one,  when 
he  telb  them  to  "  go  up-stairs,"  and  sing  together  as  if  they  would  burst 
their  throats  with  delight,  when  they  get  to  the  top  finger.  His  white 
mice  hve  in  a  little  pagoda  of  gaily-painted  wirework,  designed  and  made 
by  himself.  They  are  almost  as  tame  as  the  canaries,  and  they  are  per- 
petually let  out,  like  the  canaries.  They  crawl  all  over  him,  popping  in  and 
out  of  his  waistcoat,  and  sitting  in  couples,  white  as  snow,  on  his  capacious 
shoaldeN.  He  seems  to  be  even  fonder  of  his  mice  than  of  his  other  pets, 
smiles  at  them,  and  kisses  them,  and  calls  them  by  all  sorts  of  endearing 
names.  If  it  be  possible  to  suppose  an  Englishman  with  any  taste  for 
such  childish  interests  and  amusements  as  these,  that  Englishman  would 
certainly  feel  rather  ashamed  of  them,  and  would  be  anxious  to  apologise 
for  them,  in  the  company  of  grown-up  people.  But  the  Count,  apparently, 
sees  nothing  ridiculous  in  the  amazing  contrast  between  his  colossal  self 
and  his  frail  little  pets.  He  would  blandly  kiss  his  white  mice,  and  twitter 
to  his  canary-birds,  amid  an  assembly  of  English  fox-hunters,  and  would 
only  pity  them  as  barbarians  when  they  were  all  laughing  their  loudest  at 

It  seems  hardly  credible,  while  I  am  writing  it  down,  but  it  is  certainly 
true,  that  this  same  man,  who  has  all  the  fondness  of  an  old  maid  for  his 
cockatoo,  and  all  the  small  dexterities  of  an  organ-boy  in  managing  his 
white  mice,  can  talk,  when  anything  happens  to  rouse  him,  with  a  daring 
independence  of  thought,  a  knowledge  of  books  in  every  language,  and  an 
experience  of  society  in  half  the  capitals  of  Europe,  which  would  make  bim 
the  prominent  personage  of  any  assembly  in  the  civilized  world.  This 
trainer  of  canary-birds,  this  architect  of  a  pagoda  for  white  mice,  is  (as 
Sir  Percival  himself  has  told  me)  one  of  the  first  experimental  chemists 
living,  and  has  discovered,  among  other  wonderful  inventions,  a  means  of 
petrifying  the  body  after  death,  so  as  to  preserve  it,  as  hard  as  marble,  to 
the  end  of  time.  This  fat,  indolent,  elderly  man,  whose  nerves  are  so 
finely  strung  that  he  starts  at  chance  noises,  and  winces  when  he 


170  FHE  WOMAN  IK  WUITE. 

house-spaniel  get  a  whipping,  went  into  the  stable-yard  on  the  morning 
after  his  arrival,  and  put  his  hand  on  the  head  of  a  chained  bloodhound — 
a  beast  so  savage  that  the  very  groom  who  feeds  him  keeps  out  of  his 
reach.  His  wife  and  I  were  present,  and  I  shall  not  forget  the  scene  that 
followed,  short  as  it  was. 

"  Mind  that  dog,  sir,"  said  the  groom ;  "  he  flies  at  everybody !"  "  He 
does  that,  my  friend,''  replied  the  Count,  quietly,  "  because  everybody  is 
afraid  of  him.  Let  us  see  if  he  flies  at  rmP  And  he  laid  his  plump, 
yellow-white  fingers,  on  which  the  canary-birds  had  been  perching  ten 
minutes  before,  ui)on  the  formidable  brute's  head ;  and  looked  him  straight 
in  the  eyes.  **  You  big  dogs  are  all  cowards,"  he  said,  addressing  the 
animal  contemptuously,  with  his  face  and  the  dog's  within  an  inch  of  each 
other,  "  You  would  kill  a  poor  cat,  you  infernal  coward.  You  would  fly 
at  a  starving  beggar,  you  infernal  coward.  Anything  that  you  can 
surprise  unawares — anything  that  is  afraid  of  your  big  body,  and  your 
wicked  white  teeth,  and  your  slobbering,  bloodthirsty  mouth,  is  the  tiling 
you  like  to  fly  at.  You  could  throttle  me  at  this  moment,  you  mean, 
miserable  bully ;  and  you  daren't  so  much  as  look  me  in  the  face,  because 
I'm  not  afraid  of  you.  Will  you  thint  better  of  it,  and  try  your  teeth  in 
my  fat  neck  ?  Bah !  not  you  I"  He  turned  away,  laughing  at  the  as- 
tonishment of  the  men  in  the  yard ;  and  the  dog  crept  back  meekly  to  his 
kennel.  "  Ah!  my  nice  waistcoat!"  he  said,  pathetically.  "  I  am  sorry 
I  came  here.  Some  of  that  bmte's  slobber  has  got  on  my  pretty  clean 
waistcoat."  Those  words  express  another  of  his  incomprehensible  oddities. 
He  is  as  fond  of  fine  clothes  as  the  veriest  fool  in  existence;  and  has 
appeared  in  four  magnificent  waistcoats,  already— all  of  light  garish 
colours,  and  all  immensely  large  even  for  him — ^in  the  two  days  of  his 
residence  at  Blackwater  Park. 

His  tact  and  cleverness  in  small  things  are  quite  as  noticeable  as  the 
singular  inconsistencies  in  his  character,  and  the  childish  triviality  of  his 
ordinary  tastes  and  pursuits. 

I  can  see  already  that  he  means  to  live  on  excellent  terms  with  all  of  us, 
during  the  period  of  his  sojourn  in  this  place.  He  has  evidently  dis- 
covered that  Laura  secretly  dislikes  him  (she  confessed  as  much  to  me, 
when  I  pressed  her  on  the  subject) — but  he  has  also  found  out  that  she  if 
extravagantly  fond  of  flowers.  Whenever  she  wants  a  nosegay,  he  has  go4 
one  to  give  her,  gathered  and  arranged  by  himself;  and,  greatly  to  my 
amusement,  he  is  always  cunningly  provided  with  a  duplicate,  composed 
of  exactly  the  same  flowers,  grouped  in  exactly  the  same  way,  to  appease 
his  icily  jealous  wife,  before  she  can  so  much  as  think  herself  aggrieved. 
His  management  of  the  Countess  (in  public)  is  a  sight  to  see.  He  bows 
to  her ;  he  habitually  addresses  her  as  '*  my  angel ;"  he  carries  his 
canaries  to  pay  her  little  visits  on  his  fingers,  and  to  sing  to  her;  be 


THE  WOUAN  IN   WHITE,  171 

kiEaes  her  hand,  when  sV^n  gives  him  his  cigarettes;  he  presents  her  with 
sugar-plums,  in  return,  which  he  puts  into  her  mouth  playfully,  from  a 
box  in  his  pocket.  The  rod  of  iron  with  which  he  rules  her  never  appears 
in  company — it  is  a  private  rod,  and  is  always  kept  up-stairs. 

His  method  of  recommending  himself  to  mey  is  entirely  different.  He 
flatters  my  vanity,  by  talking  to  me  as  seriously  and  sensibly  as  if  I  was  a 
nian.  Yes !  I  can  find  him  out  when  I  am  away  from  him ;  I  know  he 
flatters  my  vanity,  when  I  think  of  him  up  here,  in  my  own  room — and 
yet^  when  I  go  down  stairs,  and  get  into  his  company  again,  he  will  blind 
me  again,  and  I  shall  be  flattered  again,  just  as  if  I  had  never  found  him 
out  at  all !  He  can  manage  me,  as  he  manages  his  wife  and  Laura,  as  he 
managed  the  bloodhound  in  the  stable-yard,  as  he  manages  Sir  Percival 
himself,  every  hour  in  the  day.  "  My  good  Percival  1  how  I  like  your 
rough  English  humour  V* — "  My  good  Percival  I  how  I  enjoy  your  solid 
English  sense  T  He  puts  the  rudest  remarks  Sir  Percival  can  make  on 
bis  effeminate  tastes  and  'amusements,  quietly  away  from  him  in  that 
manner — always  calling  the  baronet  by  his  Christian  name ;  smiling  at 
bim  with  the  calmest  superiority;  patting  him  on  the  shoulder;  and 
bearing  with  him  benignantly,  as  a  good-humoured  father  bears  with  a 
wayward  son. 

The  interest  which  I  really  cannot  help  feeling  in  this  strangely  original 
man,  has  led  me  to  question  Sir  Percival  about  his  past  life. 

Sir  Percival  either  knows  little,  or  will  tell  me  little,  about  it.  He  and 
the  Count  first  met  many  years  ago,  at  Home,  under  the  dangerous  cir« 
cmnstances  to  which  I  have  alluded  elsewhere.  Since  that  time,  they 
have  been  perpetually  together  in  London,  in  Paris,  and  in  Vienna — ^but 
never  in  Italy  again ;  the  Count  having,  oddly  enough,  not  crossed  the 
frontiers  of  his  native  country  for  years  past.  Perhaps,  he  has  been  made 
the  victim  of  some  political  persecution  ?  At  all  events,  he  seems  to  be 
patriotically  anxious  not  to  lose  sight  of  any  of  his  own  countrymen  who 
may  happen  to  be  in  England.  On  the  evening  of  his  arrival,  he  asked 
how  &r  we  were  from  the  nearest  town,  and  whether  we  knew  of  any 
Italian  gentlemen  who  might  happen  to  be  settled  there.  He  is  certainly 
in  correspondence  ^vith  people  on  the  Continent,  for  his  letters  have  all 
sorts  of  odd  stamps  on  them ;  and  I  saw  one  for  him,  this  morning,  waiting 
in  his  place  at  the  breakfast-table,  with  a  huge  offieial-looking  seal  on  it. 
Perhaps  he  is  in  correspondence  with  his  government  ?  And  yet,  that  ip 
hardly  to  be  reconciled,  either,  with  my  other  idea  that  he  may  be  ^ 
political  exile. 

How  much  I  seem  to  have  written  about  Count  Fosco !  And  what  do^s 
it  all  amount  to? — as  poor,  dear  Mr.  Gilmore  woxdd  ask,  in  his  ini- 
penetrable  business-like  way,  I  can  only  repeat  that  I  do  assuredly  feel, 
even  on  this  short  acquaintance,  a  strange,  half-willing,  half-unwilling 


172  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

liking  for  the  Count.  He  seemn  to  have  established  over  me  the  same  soil 
of  ascendancy  which  he  has  evidently  gained  over  Sir  Percival.  Free,  and 
even  rude,  as  he  may  occasionally  be  in  his  mannei  towards  his  fat  friend, 
Sir  Percival  is  nevertheless  afraid,  as  I  can  plainly  see,  of  giving  any 
serious  offence  to  the  Count.  I  wonder  whether  I  am  afraid,  too?  1 
certainly  never  saw  a  man,  in  all  my  experience,  whom  I  should  be  so 
sorry  to  have  for  an  enemy.  Is  this  because  I  like  him,  or  because  I  am 
afraid  of  him  ?  Chi  sa  f — as  Count  Fosco  might  say  in  his  own  language. 
Who  knows  ? 

Juke  16th. — Something  to  chronicle,  to-day,  besides  my  own  ideas  and 
impressions.  A  visitor  has  arrived— quite  unknown  to  Laura  and  to  me ; 
and,  apparently,  quite  unexpected  by  Sir  Percival. 

We  were  all  at  lunch,  in  the  room  with  the  new  French  windows  that 
open  into  the  verandah ;  and  the  Count  (who  devours  pastry  as  I  have 
never  yet  seen  it  devourexi  by  any  human  beings  but  girls  at  boarding- 
schools)  had  just  amused  us  by  asking  gravely  for  his  fourth  tart — when 
the  servant  entered,  to  announce  the  visitor. 

**  Mr.  Merriman  has  just  come,  Sir  Percival,  and  wishes  to  see  you  im- 
mediately." 

Sir  Percival  started,  and  looked  at  the  man,  with  an  expression  of  angry 
alarm. 

**  Mr.  Merriman?"  he  repeated  as  if  he  thought  his  own  ears  must  have 
deceived  him. 

"  Yes,  Sir  Percival :  Mr.  Men-iman,  from  London." 

"Where  is  he?" 

"  In  the  library,  Sir  Percival." 

He  left  the  table  the  instant  the  last  answer  was  given ;  and  hurried  out 
of  the  room  without  saying  a  word  to  any  of  us. 

•*  Who  is  Mr.  Merriman  ?"  asked  Laura,  appealing  to  me. 

"  I  have  not  the  least  idea,"  was  all  I  could  say  in  reply. 

l^lie  Count  had  finished  his  fourth  tart,  and  had  gone  to  a  side-table  to 
look  after  his  vicious  cockatoo.  He  l;umed  round  to  us,  with  the  bird 
perched  on  his  shoulder. 

"  Mr.  Merriman  is  Sir  Percivars  solicitor,"  he  said  quietly. 

Sir  Percival's  solicitor.  It  was  a  perfectly  straightforward  answer  to 
Laura's  question  ;  and  yet,  under  the  circumstances,  it  was  not  satisfactory. 
If  Mr.  Merriman  had  been  specially  sent  for  by  his  client,  there  would 
have  been  nothing  very  wonderful  in  his  leaving  town  to  obey  the 
summons.  But  when  a  lawyer  travels  from  London  to  Hampshire,  without 
being  sent  for,  and  when  his  arrival  at  a  gentleman's  house  seriously 
startles  the  gentleman  himself,  it  may  be  safely  taken  for  granted  that  the 
legal  visitor  is  the  bearer  of  some  very  important  and  very  unexpected 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  17J 

Qew8--nows  whicli  may  be  either  very  good  or  very  bad,  but  which 
cannot,  in  either  case,  be  of  the  common  every-day  kind. 

Laura  and  I  sat  silent  at  the  table,  for  a  quarter  of  an  hour  or  more, 
wondering  uneasily  what  had  happened,  and  waiting  for  the  chance  of 
Sir  Percival's  spe«iy  return.  There  were  no  signs  of  his  return ;  and  we 
rose  to  leave  the  room. 

The  Count,  attentive  as  usual,  advojoed  from  the  comer  in  which  he 
had  been  feeding  his  cockatoo,  with  the  bird  still  perched  on  his  shoulder, 
and  opened  the  door  for  us.  Laura  and  Madame  Fosco  went  out  first. 
Jnst  as  I  was  on  the  point  of  following  them,  he  made  a  sign  with  his 
band,  and  spoke  to  me,  before  I  passed  him,  in  the  oddest  manner. 

'*  Yes,**  he  said ;  quietly  answering  the  unexpressed  idea  at  that  moment 
in  my  mind,  as  if  I  had  plainly  confided  it  to  him  in  so  many  words—**  yes, 
Miss  Halcombe ;  something  has  happened." 

I  was  on  the  point  of  answering,  **  I  never  said  so."  But  the  vicious 
cockatoo  ruffled  his  clipped  wings,  and  gave  a  screech  that  set  all  my 
nerves  on  edge  in  an  instant,  and  made  me  only  too  glad  to  get  out  of  the 
room. 

I  joined  Laura  at  the  foot  of  the  stairs.  The  thought  in  her  mind  was 
the  same  as  the  thought  in  mine,  which  Count  Fosco  had  surprised — and, 
when  she  spoke,  her  words  were  almost  the  echo  of  his.  She,  too,  said  to 
n^e,  secretly,  that  she  was  afraid  something  had  happened. 

m. 

June  16th. — ^I  have  a  few  lines  more  to  add  to  this  day's  entry  before  I  go 
to  bed  to-night. 

About  two  hours  after  Sir  Percival  rose  from  the  luncheon-table  to 
receive  his  solicitor,  Mr.  Merriman,  in  the  library,  I  left  my  room,  alone, 
to  take  a  walk  in  the  plantations.  Just  as  I  was  at  the  end  of  the  landing, 
the  library  door  opened,  and  the  two  gentlemen  came  out.  Thinking  it 
Wt  not  to  disturb  them  by  appearing  on  the  stairs,  I  resolved  to  defer 
going  down  till  they  had  crossed  the  hall.  Although  they  spoke  to  each 
other  in  guarded  tones,  their  words  were  pronounced  with  sufficient 
distinctness  of  utterance  to  reach  my  ears. 

"  Make  your  mind  easy,  Sir  Percival,"  I  heard  the  lawyer  say.  "  It  all 
rests  with  Lady  Glyde." 

I  had  turned  to  go  back  to  my  own  room,  for  a  minute  or  two ;  but  the 
sound  of  Laura's  name,  on  the  lips  of  a  stranger,  stopped  me  instantly.  I 
dare  say  it  was  very  wrong  and  very  discreditable  to  listen — ^but  where  is 
the  woman,  in  the  whole  range  of  our  sex,  who  can  regulate  her  actions  by 
the  abstract  principles  of  honour,  when  those  principles  point  one  way, 
and  when  her  affections,  and  the  interests  which  ^row  out  of  them,  point 
the  other  7 


174  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

I  listened ;  and,  under  similar  circumstances,  I  would  listen  again — yes  1 
with  my  ear  at  the  keyhole,  if  I  could  not  possibly  manage  it  in  any  other  way. 

"  You  quite  understand.  Sir  Percival  ?*'  the  lawyer  went  on.  "  Lady 
Glyde  is  to  sign  her  name  in  the  presence  of  a  witness — or  of  two  wit- 
nesses, if  you  wish  to  be  particularly  careful — and  is  then  to  put  her 
finger  on  the  seal,  and  say,  '  I  deliver  this  as  my  act  and  deed/  If  that  is 
done  in  a  week's  time,  the  arrangement  will  be  perfectly  successful,  and  the 
anxiety  will  be  all  over.    If  not ** 

"  What  do  you  mean  by  *  if  not?'*  asked  Sir  Percival,  angrily.  **If 
the  thing  must  be  done,  it  shall  be  done.    I  promise  you  that,  Merriman." 

"  Just  so,  Sir  Percival — just  so ;  but  there  are  two  alternatives  in  all 
transactions ;  and  we  lawyers  like  to  look  both  of  them  in  the  face  boldly. 
If  through  any  extraordinary  circumstance  the  arrangement  should  not  be 
made,  I  think  I  may  be  able  to  get  the  parties  to  accept  bills  at  three 
months.    But  how  the  money  is  to  be  raised  when  the  bills  Ml  due " 

*'  Damn  the  bills  1  The  money  is  only  to  be  got  in  one  way ;  and  in 
that  way,  I  tell  you  again,  it  shall  be  got.  Take  a  glass  of  wine, 
Merriman,  before  you  go." 

"  Much  obliged.  Sir  Percival ;  I  have  not  a  moment  to  lose  if  I  am  to 
c«itch  the  up-train.  You  will  let  me  know  as  soon  as  the  arrangement  is 
complete?  and  you  will  not  forget  the  caution  I  recommended " 

"Of  course  I  won't.  There's  the  dog-cart  at  the  door  for  you.  My 
groom  will  get  you  to  the  station  in  no  time.  Benjamin,  drive  like  mad ! 
Jump  in.  If  Mr.  Merriman  misses  the  train,  you  lose  your  place.  Hold 
fast,  Merriman,  and  if  you  are  upset,  trust  to  the  devil  to  save  his  own." 
With  that  parting  benediction,  the  baronet  turned  about,  and  walked  back 
to  the  library. 

I  had  not  heard  much ;  but  the  little  that  had  reached  my  ears  was 
enough  to  make  me  feel  uneasy.  The  "  something  "  that  "  had  happened," 
was  but  too  plainly  a  serious  money-embarrassment;  and  Sir  Percival's 
relief  from  it  depended  upon  Laura.  The  prospect  of  seeing  her  involved 
in  her  husband's  secret  difficulties  filled  me  with  dismay,  exaggerated,  no 
doubt,  by  my  ignorance  of  business  and  my  settled  distrust  of  Sir  Percival. 
Instead  of  going  out,  as  I  proposed,  I  went  back  immediately  to  Laura's 
room  to  tell  her  what  I  had  heard. 

She  received  my  bad  news  so  composedly  as  to  surprise  me.  She 
evidently  knows  more  of  her  husband's  character  and  her  husband's 
embarrassments  than  I  have  suspected  up  to  this  time. 

<'  I  feared  as  much,"  she  said,  "  when  I  heard  of  that  strange  gentleman 
who  called,  and  declined  to  leave  his  name." 

Who  do  you  think  the  gentleman  was,  then  ?"  I  asked. 
Some  person  who  has  heavy  claims  on  Sir  Percival,"  she  answered ; 
"and  who  has  been  the  cause  of  Mr.  Merriman's  visit  here  to-day.** 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE,  I75 

"  IX)  you  know  anythmg  about  tk)fle  daims  ?" 
**No;  I  know  no  particulars," 

"  You  will  sign  nothing,  Lania^  without  first  looking  al^it  f* 
"  Certainly  not,  Marian.     Whatever  I  can  harmlessly  and  honestly  do 
to  help  him  I  will  do— for  the  sake  of  making  your  life  an^  mine,  love,  as 
easy  and  as  happy  as  possible.    But  I  will  do  nothing,  ignprantly,  wMch 
we  mighty  one  day,  have  reason  to  feel  ashamed  of.    Let  US'  say  no  more 
about  iti  now.    Yon  have  got  your  hat  on—suppose  we  go  and  dream 
away  the  afternoon  in  the  grounds  ?" 
On  leaving  the  house  we  directed  our  steps  to  the  nearest  shade. 
As  we  passed  an  open  space  among  the  trees  in  front  of  the  house,  thew 
was  Count  Fosoo,  slowly  walking  backwards  and  forwards  on  the  grass. 
wnning  himself  in  the  full  blaze  of  the  hot  June  afternoon.    He  had  a 
broad  straw  hat  on,  with  a  violet  coloured  ribbon  round  it.    A  blue  blouse, 
with  profuse  white  fancy-work  over  the  bosom,  covered  his  prodigious 
^y,  and  was  girt  about  the  place  where  his  waist  might  once  have  been, 
wili  a  broad  scarlet  leather  belt.      Nankeen  trousers,  displaying  more 
white  fancy-work  over  the  ankles,  and  purple  morocco  slippers,  adorned 
his  lower  extremities.     He  was  singing  Figaro's  famous  song  in  the  Barber 
of  Seville,  with  that  crisply  fluent  vocalization  which  is  never  heard  from 
any  other  than  an  Italian  throat ;  accompanying  himself  on  the  concertina, 
which  he  played  with  ecstatic  throwings-up  of  his  arms,  and  graceful 
twistingB  and  turnings  of  his  head,  like  a  fat  St.  Cecilia  masquerading  in 
niale  attire.    "  Figaro  qua  I  Figaro  ]k  I  Figaro  sii  I  Figaro  giil  I"  sang^'the 
Count,  jauntily  tossing  up  the  concertina  at  arm's  length,  and  bowing  to 
^  on  one  side  of  the  instrument,  with  the  airy  grace  and  elegance  of  Figan^ 
bimself  at  twenty  years  of  age. 

"  Take  my  word  for  it,  Laura,  that  man  knows  something  of  Sir  Percival's 
embarrassments,**  I  said,  as  we  returned  the  Count's  salutation  from  a  saf» 
Stance. 

"What  makes  you  think  that  ?"  she  asked. 

"How  should  he  have  known,  otherwise,  that  Mr,  Merriman  was  Sir 
Pereival'g  solicitor  ?"  I  rejoined.  "  Besides,  when  I  followed  you  out  of  the 
luncheon-room,  he  told  me,  without  a  single  word  of  inquiry  on  my  part, 
that  something  had  happened.  Depend  upon  it,  he  knows  more  than  we 
do." 

**  Don't  ask  him  any  questions,  if^he  does.  Don't  take  him  into  oui 
ooDfidencel" 

**  You  seem  to  dislike  him,  Laura,  in  a  very  determined  manner.  What 
^  he  said  or  done  to  justify  you  ?" 

*'  Nothing,  Marian.  On  the  contrary,  he  was  all  kindness  and  attention 
on  our  journey  home,  and  he  several  times  checked  Sir  Perci^^l's  outbreakg 
of  temper,  in  the  most  considerate  manner  towards  me.    Perhaps,  I  dislDr'- 


176  THE   WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

him  because  he  has  so  much  more  power  over  my  husband  than  I  have. 
Perhaps  it  hurts  my  pride  to  be  under  any  obligations  to  his  inteiference. 
All  I  know  is,  that  I  do  dislike  him." 

The  rest  of  the  day  and  evening  passed  quietly  enough.  The  Count  and 
I  played  at  chess.  For  the  first  two  games  he  politely  allowed  me  to 
conquer  him ;  and  then,  when  he  saw  that  I  had  found  him  out,  begged 
my  pardon,  and,  at  the  third  game,  checkmated  me  in  ten  minutes.  Sir 
Percival  never  once  referred,  all  through  the  evening,  to  the  lawyer's  visit. 
But  either  that  event,  or  something  else,  had  produced  a  singular  alteration 
for  the  better  in:  him.  He  was  as  polite  and  agreeable  to  all  of  us,  as  be 
used  to  be  in  the  days  of  his  probation  at  Limmeridge ;  and  he  was  sc 
amazingly  attentive  and  kind  to  his  wife,  that  even  icy  Madame  Fosoo  was 
roused  into  looking  at  him  with  a  grave  surprise.  What  does  this  mean  ? 
I  think  I  can  guess ;  I  am  afraid  Laura  can  guess ;  and  I  am  sure  Ck>unt 
Fosco  knows.  I  caught  Sir  Percival  looking  at  him  for  approval  more 
than  once  in  the  course  of  the  evening. 

JcjNB  17th. — A  day  of  events.  I  most  fervently  hope  I  may  not  have 
to  add,  a  day  of  disasters  as  well. 

Sir^Percival  was  as  silent  at  breakfast  as  he  had  been  the  evening  before, 
on  the  sabject  of  the  mysterious  **  arrangement  *'  (as  the  lawyer* called  it). 
which  is  hanging  over  our  heads.  An  hour  afterwards,  however,  he 
suddenly  entered  the  morning-room,  where  his  wife  and  I  were  waiting, 
with  our  hats  on,  for  Madame  Fosco  to  join  us ;  and  inquired  for  the 
Count. 

**  We  expect  to  see  him  here  directly,"  I  said. 

"  The  fact  is,"  Sir  Percival  went  on,  walking  nervously  about  the  room, 
'*  I  want  Fosco  and  his  wife  in  the  library,  for  a  mere  business  formality  ; 
and  I  want  you  there,  Laura,  for  a  minute,  too."  He  stopped,  and  appeared 
to  notice,  for  the  first  time,  that  we  were  in  our  walking  costume.  "  Have 
you  just  come  in  ?'*  he  asked,  "  or  were  you  just  going  out?" 

'*  We  were  all  thinking  of  going  to  the  lake  this  morning,"  said  Lairra. 
"  But  if  you  have  any  other  arrangement  to  propose        " 
,    **  No,  no,"  he  answered,  hastily.    "  My  arrangement  can  wait.     After 
lunch  will  do  as  well  for  it,  as  after  breakfast.    All  going  to  the  lake, 
eh  ?    A  good  idea.     Let's  have  an  idle  morning ;  I'll  be  one  of  the  party." 

There  was  no  mistaking  his  manner,  even  if  it  had  been  possible  to 
mistake  tlie  uncharacteristic  readiness  which  his  words  expressed,  to  submit 
his  own  plans  and  projects  to  the  convenience  of  others.  He  was  evidently 
relieved  at  finding  any  excuse  for  delaying  the  business  formality  in  the 
library,  to  which  his  own  words  had  referred.  My  heart  sank  within  mo,  as 
I  drew  the  inevitable  inference. 

The  Count  and  his  wife  joined  us,  at  that  moment.    The  lady  had  ba 


TSK  WOHAK  IN  WHITE.  177 

huAand'8  embroidered  tobacco-pouch,  and  her  store  of  paper  in  her  Land, 
lof  the  manufactare  of  the  eternal  cigarettes.  The  gentleman,  dressed,  as 
Qfniai,  in  his  blouse  and  straw  hat,  carried  the  gay  little  pagoda-cage,  with 
m  darling  white  mice  in  it,  and  smiled  bn  them,  and  on  us,  with  a  bland 
amiability  which  it  was  impossible  to  resist. 

"  With  your  kind  permission,"  said  the  CJount,  "  I  will  take  my  small 
family  here — my-poor-little-harmless-pretty-Mouseys,  out  for  an  airing 
along  with  us.  There  are  dogs  about  the  house,  and  shall  I  leave  my 
forlorn  white  children  at  the  mercies  of  the  dogs  ?    Ah,  never !" 

He  chirruped  paternally  at  his  small  white  children  through  the  bars  of 
the  pagoda ;  and  we  all  left  the  house  for  the  lake. 

In  tiie  plantation,  Sir  Percival  strayed  away  from  us.  It  seems  to  be 
part  of  his  restless  disposition  always  to  separate  himself  from  his  com- 
panions on -these  occasions,  and  always  to  occupy  himself,  when  he  is  alone 
in  catting  new  walking-sticks  for  his  own  use.  The  mere  act  of  cutting 
and  lopping,  at  hazard,  appears  to  please  him.  He  has  filled  the  house 
^th  walking-sticks  of  his  own  making,  not  one  of  which  he  ever  takes  up 
for  a  second  time.  When  they  have  been  once  used,  his  interest  in  them 
is  all  exhausted,  and  he  thinks  of  nothing  but  going  on,  and  making 
more. 

At  the  old  boat-house,  he  joined  us  again.  I  will  put  down  the  conversa- 
tion that  ensued,  when  we  were  all  settled  in  our  places,  exactly  as  it 
passed.  It  is  an  important  conversation,  so  far  as  I  am  concerned,  for  it 
lias  seriously  disposed  me  to  distrust  the  influence  which  Count  Fosco  has 
exercised  over  my  thoughts  and  feelings,  and  to  resist  it,  for  the  future,  as 
resolutely  as  I  can. 

The  boat-house  was  large  enough  to  hold  us  all;  but  Sir  Percival 
remained  outside,  trimming  the  last  new  stick  with  his  pocket-axe.  We 
three  women  found  plenty  of  room  on  the  large  seat.  Laura  took  her 
work,  and  Madame  Fosco  began  her  cigarettes.  I,  as  usual,  had  nothing  to 
do.  My  hands  always  were,  and  always  will  be,  as  awkward  as  a  man's. 
The  Count  good-humouredly  took  a  stool  inany  sizes  too  small  for  him, 
and  balanced  himself  on  it  with  his  back  against  the  side  of  the  shed, 
which  creaked  and  groaned  under  his  weight.  He  put  the  pagoda-cage  on 
his  lap,  and  let  out  the  mice  to  crawl  over  him  as  usual.  They  are  pretty, 
innocent-looking  little  creatures ;  but  the  fdght  of  them,  creeping  about  a 
man's  body  is,  for  some  reason,  not  pleasant  to  me.  It  excites  a  strange, 
responsive  creeping  in  my  own  nerves ;  and  suggests  hideous  ideas  of  men 
dying  in  prison,  with  the  crawling  creatitres  of  the  dungeon  preying  on 
them  undisturbed. 

The  morning  was  windy  and  cloudy ;  and  the  rapid  alternations  of  shadow 
and  sunlight  over  the  waste  of  the  lake,  made  the  view  look  doubly  wild, 
weirdy  and  gloomy. 


178  THB  WOMAN  IK  WHITB. 

"  Some  people  call  that  picturesque,"  Baid  Sir  Percival,  pointing  ovor  tbe 
wide  prospect  with  his  half-finished  walking-stick.  '*  I  call  it  a  blot  on  a 
gentleman's  property.  In  my  great^andfathcr's  time,  the  lake  flowed  tit 
this  place.  Look  at  it  now  I  It  is  not  four  feet  deep  anywhere,  and  it  is 
all  puddles  and  pools.  I  wish  I  could  afford  to  drain  it,  and  plant  it  all 
over.  My  hailiff  (a  superstitious  idiot)  says  he  is  quite  sure  the  lake  has  a 
curse  on  it^  like  the  Dead  Sea.  What  do  you  think,  Fosco  ?  It  looks  just 
the  place  for  a  murder,  doesn't  it?" 

"  My  good  Percival  1"  remonstrated  the  Count.  "  What  is  your  solid 
English  sense  thinking  of?  The  water  is  too  shallow  to  hide  the  bcnly  ; 
and  there  is  sand  everywhere  to  print  off  the  murderer's  footsteps.  It  is, 
upon  the.whole,  the  very  worst  place  for  a  murder  that  I  ever  set  my  eyes  on." 

"  Humbug  1"  said  Sir  Percival,  cutting  away  fiercely  at  his  stick.  "  You 
Jknow  what  I  mean.  The  dreary  scenery— the  lonely  situation.  If  yon 
fhoose  to  imderstand  me,  you  can — if  you  don't  choose,  I  am  not  going  to 
{rouble  myself  to  explain  my  meaning." 

.  *'  And  why  not,"  asked  the  Count,  **  when  your  meaning  can  be  ex- 
plained by  anybody  in  two  words  ?  If  a  fool  was  going  to  commit  a 
murder,  your  lake  is  the  first  place  he  would  choose  for  it.  If  a  wise  man 
was  going  to  commit  a  murder,  your  lake  is  the  last  place  he  would  choose 
ior  it.  Is  that  your  meaning  ?  If  it  is,  there  is  your  explanation  for  you, 
ready  made.    Take  it^  Percival,  with  your  good  Fosco's  blessing.^' 

Laura  looked  at  the  Count,  with  her  dislike  for  him  appearing  a  little 
too  plainly  in  her  face.  He  was  so  busy  with  his  mice  that  he  did  not 
notice  her* 

"  1  am  sorry  to  hear  the  lake-view  connected  with  anything  so  horrible 
as  the  idea  of  murder,"  lEihe  said.  ^' And  if  Count  Fosco  must  divide 
murderers  into  classes,  I  think  he  has  heen  very  unfortunate  in  his  cboico 
of  expressions.  To  describe  them  as  fools  only,  seems  .like  treating  them 
with  an  indulgence  to  which  they  have  no  claim.  And  to  describe  them 
.as  wise  men,  sounds  to  me  like  a  downright  contradiction  in  terms.  I  have 
always  heard  that  truly  wise  men  are  truly  good  men,  and  have  a  horror 
of  crime."   . 

'*  My  dear  lady,"  said  the  Count,  "  those  are  admirable  sentiments ;  and 
I  have  seen  them  stated  at  the  tops  of  copy-books."  He  lifted  one  of  the 
white  mice  in  the  palm  of  his  hand,  and  spoke  to  it  in  his  whimsical  way. 
"My  pretty  Uttle  smooth  white  rascal,"  he  said,  "hereis  a  moral  lesson 
for  you.  A  truly  wise  Mouse  is  a  truly  good  Mouse.  Mention  that,  if 
you  please,  to  your  companions,  and  never  gnaw  at  the  ban  of  your  cage 
«gain  as  long  as  you  live." 

*  It  is  easy  to  turn  everything  into  ridicule,"  said  Laura,  resolutely ; 
but  you  will  not  find  it  quite  so  easy.  Count  Fosco^  to  jdve  me  an  instanoe 
«f  a  wise  man  who  has  been  a  great  criminal." 


cc 


TftE  WOMAK  m  WHITE.  179 

The  Coimt  'slirdgged  bis  huge  sbouldeni,  and  ^smiled  on  Laura  in  the 
friendliest  manner. 

''Most  truel"  he  said.  '*The  fooFs  crime  is  the  crime  that  is  found 
ont ;  and  the  wise  man's  crime  is  the  crime  that  is  nci  foimd  oat.  If  I 
could  give  you  an  instance,  it  would  not  be  the  instance  of  a  wise  man. 
Dear  Lady  Glyde,  your  sound  English  common  sense  has  been  too  much 
for  me.    It  is  checkmate  for  me  this  time,  Miss  Halcombe— ha  ?** 

"Stand  to  your  guns,  Laura,"  sneered  Sir  Fercival,  who  had  been 
listening  in  his  place  at  the  door.  '*  Tell  him,  next,  that  crimes  cause 
their  own  detection.  There's  another  bit  of  copy-book  morality  for  you, 
Fosoo.    Grimes  cause  their  own  detection.    What  infernal  humbug  1** 

"I  belieye  it  to  be  true,"  said  Laura,  quietly. 

Sir  Fercival  burst  out  laughing ;  so  violently,  so  outn^eously,  that  he 
quite  startled  us  all — the  Count  more  than  any  of  us. 

**  I  believe  it,  too,"  I  said,  coming  to  Laura's  rescue. 

Sir  Fercival,  who  had  been  unaccountably  amused  at  his  wife's  remark, 
was,  just  as  unaccountably,  irritated  by  mine.  He  struck  the  new  stick 
savagely  on  the  sand,  and  walked  away  from  us. 

**  Poor  dear  Fercival  1"  cried  Count  Fosco,  looking  after  him  gaily :  "  he 
is  the  victim  of  English  spleen.  But,  my  dear  Miss  Halcombe,  my  dear 
Lady  Glyde,  do  you  really  believe  that  crimes  cause  their  own  detection  ? 
And  you  my  angel,"  he  continued,  turning  to  his  wife,  who  had  not 
uttered  a  word  yet>  "  do  you  think  so  too  ?" 

"I  wait  to  be  instructed,"  replied  the  Countess,  in  tones  of  freezing 
reproof,  intended  for  Laura  and  mCf  "before  I  venture  on  giving  my 
opinion  in  the  presence  of  well-informed  men." 

"  Do  you,  indeed  ?"  I  said.  "  I  remember  the  time,  Countess,  when 
you  advocated  the  Bights  of  Women — ^and  freedom  of  female  opinion  was 
one  of  them." 

"What  is  your  view  of  the  subject,  Count?"  asked  Madame  Fosco, 
calmly  proceeding  with  her  cigarettes,  and  not  taking  the  least  notice 
of  me. 

The  Count  stroked  one  of  his  white  mice  reflectively  with  his  chubby 
little  finger  before  he  answered. 

"  It  is  truly  wonderful,"  he  said,  "  how  easily  Society  can  console  itself 
for  the  worst  of  its  shortcomings  with  a  little  bit  of  clap-trap.  The 
machinery  it  has  set  up  for  the  detection  of  crime  is  miserably  ineffective 
— and  yet  only  invent  a  moral  epigram,  saying  that  it  works  well,  and 
you  blind  everybody  to  its  blunders,  from  that  moment.  Crimes  cause 
their  own  detection,  do  they?  And  murder  will  out  (another  moral 
epigram),  will  it  ?  Ask  Coroners  who  sit  at  inquests  in  large  towns  if  that 
is  trae,  liady  Glyde.  Ask  secretaries  of  life-assurance  companies,  if  that 
Is  true,  Misfl  Halcombe.    Read  your  own  public  journals.    In  the  few 


180  THE  WOMAN  m  WHITE. 

cases  that  get  into  the  newspapers,  are  there  not  instances  ot  elain  hodiea 
found, and  no  murderers  ever  discovered?  Multiply  the  cases  that  are 
reported  by  the  cases  that  are  not  reported,  and  the  bodies  that  are  found 
by  the  bodies  that  are  not  found  ;  and  what  conclusion  do  you  come  to  ? 
This.  That  there  are  foolish  criminals  who  are  discovered,  and  wisa 
criminals  who  escai^e.  The  hiding  of  a  crime,  or  the  detectioif  of  a  crime, 
what  is  it?  A  trial  of  skill  between  the  police  on  one  side,  and  the  indi- 
vidual on  the  other.  When  the  criminal  is  a  brutal,  ignorant  fool,  the 
police,  in  nine  cases  out  of  ten,  win.  When  the  criminal  is  a  resolute, 
educated,  highly-intelligent  man,  the  police,  in  nine  cases  put  of  ten,  lose. 
If  the  police  win,  you  generally  hear  all  about  it.  If  the  police  lose,  you 
generally  hear  nothing.  And  on  this  tottering  foundation  you  build  up 
your  comfortable  moral  maxim  that  Crime  causes  its  own  detection  I  Tea 
— all  the  crime  you  know  of.    And,  what  of  the  rest  ?** 

"  Devilish  true,  and  very  well  put,"  cried  a  voice  at  the  entrance  of  the 
boat-house.  Sir  Fercival  had  recovered  his  equanimity,  and  had  come 
back  while  we  were  listening  to  the  Count. 

"  Some  of  it  may  be  true,"  I  said ;  **  and  all  of  it  may  be  very  well  put. 
But  I  don't  see  why  Count  Fosco  should  celebrate  the  victory  of  the 
criminal  over  society  with  so  much  exultation,  or  why  you,  Sir  Percival, 
should  applaud  him  so  loudly  for  doing  it." 

"  Do  you  hear  that,  Fosco  ?"  asked  Sir  Percival.  "  Take  my  advice, 
and  make  your  peace  with  your  audience.  Tell  them  Virtue's  a  fine 
thing — they  like  that,  I  can  promise  you." 

The  Count  laughed,  inwardly  and  silently ;  and  two  of  the  white  mice 
in  his  waistcoat,  alarmed  by  the  internal  convulsion  going  on  beneath 
them,  darted  out  in  a  violent  hurry,  and  scrambled  into  their  cage  again. 

"  The  ladies,  my  good  Percival,  shall  tell  me  about  virtue,"  he  said. 
*'  They  are  better  authorities  than  I  am ;  for  they  know  what  virtue  is, 
and  I  don't." 

"  You  hear  him  ?**  said  Sir  Percival.    "  Isn't  it  awful  P' 

"  It  is  true,"  said  the  Count,  quietly.  "  I  am  a  citizen  of  the  world,  and 
I  have  met,  in  my  time,  with  so  many  different  sorts  of  virtue,  that  I  am 
puzzled,  in  my  old  age,  to  sav  which  is  the  right  sort  and  which  is  the 
wrong.  Here,  in  England,  there  is  one  virtue.  .And  there,  in  China, 
there  is  another  virtue  And  John  Englishman  says  my  virtue  is  the 
genuine  virtue.  And  John  Chinaman  says  my  viitue  is  the  genuine 
virtue.  And  I  say  Yes  to  one,  or  No  to  the  other,  and  am  just  as  much 
bewildered  about  it  in  the  case  of  John  with  the  top-boots  as  I  am  in  the 
case  of  John  with  the  pigtail.  Ah,  nice  little  Mousey  I  come,  kiss  me. 
What  is  your  own  private  notion  of  a  virtuous  man,  my  pret-pret-pretty  ? 
A  man  who  keeps  you  warm,  and  gi\es  you  plenty  to  eat.  And  a  goo^ 
notion,  too,  for  it  is  intelligible,  at  the  least." 


THE  WOMAN   1^    WHITR.  181 

*' Stay  a  minute,  Goxmt,"  I  interpocted.  *' Accepting  yonr  illnstratioii. 
Barely  we  have  one  unquestionable  virtue  in  England,  which  is  wanting  in 
China,  llie  Chinese  authorities  kill  thousands  of  innocent  people,  on  the 
most  frivolous  pretexts.  We,  in  England,  are  free  from  all  guilt  of  that 
kind— we  commit  no  such  dreadful  crime — we  abhor  reckless  bloodshed, 
with  all  our  hearts." 

"Quite  right,' Marian,"  said  Laura.  ''Well  thought  of,  and  well  ex- 
oressed." 

"Pray  allow  the  Count  to  proceed,'*  said  Madame  Fosco,  with  stem 
civility.  "You  will  find,  young  ladies,  that  he  never  speaks  without 
having  excellent  reasons  for  all  that  he  says.** 

"  Tliank  you,  my  angel,"  replied  the  Count.  "  Have  a  bonbon  ?"  He 
took  out  of  his  pocket  a  pretty  little  inlaid  box,  and  placed  it  open  on  the 
table.  "  Chocolat  a  la  Vanille,"  cried  the  impenetrable  man,  cheerfully 
rattling  the  sweetmeats  in  the  box,  and  bowing  all  round.  ''  Offered  by 
Fosoo  as  an  act  of  homage  to  the  charming  society." 

"Be  good  enough  to  go  on.  Count,"  said  his  wife,  with  a  spiteful  refer- 
ence to  myself.    "  Oblige  me  by  answering  Miss  Halcombe." 

"  Miss  Halcombe  is  unanswerable,"  replied  the  polite  Italian — ''  that  is 
to  say,  so  far  as  she  goes.  Yes !  I  agree  with  her.  John  Bull  does  abhor 
the  crimes  of  John  Chinaman.  He  is  the  quickest  old  gentleman  at  find- 
ing out  the  faults  that  are  his  neighbours',  and  the  slowest  old  gentleman  at 
finding  out  the  faults  that  are  his  own,  who  exists  on  the  face  of  creation. 
Is  he  so  very  much  better  in  his  way,  than  the  people  whom  he  condemns 
in  their  way  ?  English  society.  Miss  Halcombe,  is  as  often  the  accomplice, 
as  it  is  the  enemy  of  crime.  Yes  I  yes  I  Crime  is  in  this  country  what 
irime  is  in  other  countries — a  good  friend  to  a  man  and  to  those  about 
him  as  often  as  it  is  an  enemy.  A  great  rascal  provides  for  his  wife  and 
fisimily.  The  worse  he  is,  the  more  he  makes  them  the  objects  for  your 
sympathy.  He  often  provides,  also,  for  himself.  A  profligate  spendthrift 
who  is  always  borrowing  money,  will  get  more  from  his  friends  than  the 
rigidly  honest  man  who  only  borrows  of  them  once,  under  pressure  of  the 
direst  want.  In  the  one  case,  the  friends  will  not  be  at  all  surprised,  and 
they  will  give.  In  the  other  case,  they  will  be  very  much  surprised,  and 
they  will  hesitate.  Is  the  prison  that  Mr.  Scoundrel  Uvcs  in,  at  the  end  of  his 
career,  a  more  uncomfortable  place  than  the  workhouse  that  Mr.  Honesty 
lives  in,  at  the  end  of  his  career  ?  When  John-Howard-Philanthropist 
wants  to  relieve  misery,  he  goes  to  find  it  in  prisons,  where  ciime  is 
wretched — not  in  huts  and  hovels,  where  virtue  is  wretched  too.  "Who  is 
the  English  poet  who  has  won  the  most  universal  sympathy — who  makes 
the  easiest  of  all  subjects  for  pathetic  writing  and  pathetic  painting  ?  That 
nice  young  person  who  began  life  with  a  forgery,  and  ended  it  by  a  suicide 
•^your  de^r,  romantic,  interesting  Chattertp^.    Wbich  gets  on  best,  do 


182  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

you  think,  of  two  poor  starving  dressmakers — ^the  woman  who  resists 
temptation,  and  is  honest,  or  the  woman  who  falls  under  temptation,  and 
steals?  Tou  all  know  l^t  the  stealing  is  the  making  of  that  seconJ 
woman's  fortune— it  advertises  her  from  length  to  hreadth  of  good- 
humoured,  charitable  England — and  she  is  relieved,  as  the  breaker  of  a 
commandment,  when  she  would  have  been  left  to  starve,  as  the  keeper  of 
it.  Gome  here,  my  jolly  little  Mouse  I  Hey  I  presto  I  pass !  I  trans- 
form you,  for  the  time  being,  into  a  respectable  lady.  Stop  there,  in  the 
palm  of  my  great  big  hand,  my  dear,  and  listen.  Tou  marry  the  poor 
man  whom  you  love.  Mouse ;  and  one  half  your  friends  pity,  and  the  other 
half  blame  you.  And,  now,  on  the  contrary,  you  sell  yourself  for  gold  to  a 
man  you  don't  care  for ;  and  all  your  friends  rejoice  over  you ;  and  a 
minister  of  public  worship  sanctions  the  base  horror  of  the  vilest  of  all 
human  bargains ;  and  smiles  and  smirks  afterwards  at  your  table,  if  you 
are  polite  enough  to  ask  him  to  breakfast.  Hey  I  presto !  pass  1  Be  a 
mouse  again,  and  squeak.  If  yon  continue  to  be  a  lady  much  longor,  I 
shall  have  you  telling  me  that  Society  abhors  crime — and  then.  Mouse,  I 
shall  doubt  if  your  own  eyes  and  ears  are  really  of  any  use  to  you.  Ah  !  I  am 
a  bad  man.  Lady  Glyde,  am  I  not?  I  say  what  other  people  only  think  ; 
and  when  all  the  rest  of  the  world  is  in  a  conspiracy  to  accept  the  mask 
for  the  true  face,  mine  is  the  rash  hand  that  tears  off  the  plump  paste- 
board, and  shows  the  bare  bones  beneath.  I  will  get  up  on  my  big 
elephant's  legs,  before  I  do  myself  any  more  harm  in  your  amiable 
estimations — I  will  get  up,  and  take  a  little  airy  walk  of  my  own.  Dear 
ladies,  as  your  excellent  Sheridan  said,  I  go— and  leave  my  character  bo- 
hind  me." 

He  got  up ;  put  the  cage  on  the  table ;  and  paused,  for  a  moment,  to 

count  the  mice  in  it.    "  One,  two,  three,  four Ha  I"  he  cried,  with  a 

look  of  horror,  **  where,  in  the  name  of  Heaven,  is  the  fifth — the  youngest 
the  whitest,  the  most  amiable  of  all — ^my  Benjamin  of  mice !" 

Neither  Laura  nor  I  were  in  any  favourable  disposition  to  be  amused. 
The  Count's  glib  cynicism  had  revealed  a  new  aspect  of  his  nature  from 
which  we  both  recoiled.  But  it  was  impossible  to  resist  the  comical  dis- 
tress of  so  very  large  a  man  at  the  loss  of  so  very  small  a  mouse.  We 
laughed,  in  spite  of  ourselves ;  and  when  Madame  Fosco  rose  to  set  the 
example  of  leaving  the  boat-house  empty,  so  that  her  husband  might  search 
it  to  its  remotest  comers,  we  rose  also  to  follow  her  out. 

Before  we  had  taken  three  steps,  the  Count's  quick  eye  discovered  the 
lost  mouse  under  the  seat  that  we  had  been  occupying.  He  pulled  aside 
the  bench;  took  the  little  animal  up  in  his  hand;  and. then  suddenly 
stopped,  on  his  knees,  looking  intently  at  a  particular  place  on  the  ground 
just  beneath  him. 

When  he  rose  to  his  feet  again,  his  hand  shook  so  that  he  could  hai^y 


THK  YfOUAS  IN  IVHITK.  18S 

pat  the  mouBo  back  in  the  Qage,  and  his  fiioe  was  of  a  faint  liWd  jellow 

liQe  all  over. 
"  Pereival  1"  he  eaid,  in  a  iwiriaper.    «*  Perdval !  oome  here." 
Sir  PerdTal  had  paid  no  attentioQ  to  any  of  us,  for  the  last  ten  minatea* 

He  had  been  entirely  absorbed  in  writing  figures  on  the  sand«  and  then 

rubbing  them  out  again,  with  the  point  of  his  stick. 
*'  What's  the  matter,  now  ?"  he  asked,  loongmg  carelessly  into  the  boat ' 

house. 

"Do  you  see  nothing  there?"  said  the  Count,  catching  him  nervously  by 
the  collar  with  one  hand,  and  pointing  with  Hie  other  to  the  place  near 
which  he  had  found  the  mouse. 

**I  aee  plenty  of  dry  sand,"  answered  Sir  Feroiyal ;  **  and  a  spot  of  dirt 
in  the  middle  of  it." 

*'  Not  dirt,"  whispered  the  Count,  fasteniog  the  othss  hand  suddenly  oa 
Sir  Percivars  collar,  and  shaking  it  in  his  agitation.    '*  Blood." 

Laura  was  near  enough  to  hear  the  last  word,  softly  as  he  whispered  it. 
She  turned  to  me  with  a  look  of  terror. 

/'Nonsense,  my  dear,"  I  said.  "  There  is  no  need  to  be  alarmed.  It  is 
only  the  blood  of  a  poor  little  stray  dog." 

ilvcrybody  was  astonished,  and  everybody's  eyes  were  fixed  on  me  in- 
quiringly. 

**How  do  you  know  that?"  asked  ^  Ferdval,  speaking  first. 

**!  found  the  dog  here,  dying,  on  the  day  when  you  all  returned  from^ 
abroad^"  I  replied.  ^^The  poor  creature  had  strayed  into  the  plantatiQn« 
and  had  been  shot  by  your  keeper." 

*'  Whote  dog  was  it  ?!'  inquired  Sir  PercivaL    ^  Not  one  of  mine  ?" 

**  Did  you  try  to  save  the  poor  thing  ?"  asked  Laura,  earnestly.  "  Surely 
you  tried  to  save  it,  Marian?!' 

"  Yes,"  I  said  ;  "  the  housekeeper  and  I  both  did  our  best — ^but  the  dog 
was  mortally  wounded,  and  he  died  under  our  hands."   ■•. 

"  Whose  dog  was  it?"  persisted  Sir  Pereival,  repeating-  his  question  a 
Httle  irritably.    "One  of  mine?" 

**No;  not  one  of  yours." 

"Whose  then?    Did  the  housekeeper  kijow  ?" 

The  housekeeper's  report  of  Mrs.  Gatherick's  desire  to  conceal  her  visit 
to  Black  water  Park  from  Sir  Percival's  knowledge,  recurred  to  my  memory 
the  moment  he  put  that  last  question :  and  I  half  doubted  the  discretion  of 
answering  it.  But,  in  my  anxiety  to  quiet  the  general  alarm,  I  had 
thoughtlessly  advanced  too  far  to  draw  back,  except  at  the  risk  of  ex- 
citing suspicion  which  might  <wily  make  matters  worse*  There  was 
nothing  for  it  but  to  answer  at  onoe,  without  reference  to  results. 

*'Y6s,"  I  said.  "The  housekeeper  knew*  She  told  me  it  was  Mrs 
Catheriok's  dog  " 


184  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITB. 

Sir  PemvaL  had  hitherto  remained  at  the  inner  end  of  the  boat-houae 
with  Gaunt  Fosoo,  while  I  spoke  to  him  from  the  door.  But  the  instant 
Mrs.  Catherick's  name  passed  my  lips,  he  pushed  by  the  Count  roagh]^, 
and  placed  himself  face  to  &cq  with  me,  under  the  open  daylight. 

''How  came  the  housekeeper  to  know  it  was  Mrs.  Catherick's  dogP*  he 
asked,  fixing  his  eyes  on  mine  with  a  frowning  interest  and  attention, 
which  half  angered,  half  startled  me. 

"  She  knew  it,"  I  said,  quietly,  '*  because  Mrs.  Catherick  brought  the 
dog  .with  her?" 

"  Brought  it  with  her  ?    Where  did  she  bring  it  with  her?" 

"  To  this  house." 

*'  What  the  devil  did  Mrs.  Catherick  want  at  this  house  ?" 

The  manner  in  which  he  put  the  question  was  even  more  offensive  than 
the  language  in  which  he  expressed  it.  I  marked  my  sense  of  his  want  of 
common  politeness,  by  silently  turning  away  from  him. 

Just  08  I  moved,  the  Count's  persuasive  hand  was  laid  on  his  shoulder, 
and  the  Count's  mellifluous  Toice  interposed  to  quiet  him. 

"  My  dear  Percival  I — gently— gently." 

Sir  Percival  looked  round  in  his  angriest  manner.  The  Count  only 
smiled,  and  repeated  the  soothing  application. 

**  Gently,  my  good  friend — gently  T 

Sir  Percival  hesitated — followed  me  a  few  steps — and,  to  my  great  sur- 
prise, offered  me  an  apology. 

« I  beg  your  pardon.  Miss  Halcombe,"  he  said.  *'  I  have  been  out  of 
order  lately ;  and  I  am  afraid  I  am  a  little  irritable.  But  I  should  like  to 
know  what  Mrs.  Catherick  could  possibly  want  here.  When  did  she  come  ? 
Was  the  housekeeper  the  only  person  who  saw  her?" 

"  The  only  person,"  I  answered,  **  so  far  as  I  know." 

The  Count  intei'posed  again. 

"  In  that  case,  why  not  question  the  housekeeper  ?"  he  said.  "  Why  not 
go,  Percival,  to  the  fountain-head  of  information  at  once  ?" 

''  Quite  right  1"  said  Sir  Percival.  "  Of  course  the  housekeeper  is  the 
first  person  to  question.  Excessively  stupid  of  me  not  to  see  it  myself." 
With  those  words,  he  instantly  left  us  to  return  to  the  house. 

The  motive  of  the  Count's  interference,  which  had  puzzled  me  at  firsts 
betrayed  itself  when  Sir  Percival's  back  was  turned.  He  had  a  host  of 
questions  to  put  to  me  about  Mrs.  Catherick,  and  the  cause  of  her  visit  to 
Blaokwater  Park,  which  he  could  scarcely  have  asked  in  his  friend's  pre- 
sence. I  made  my  answers  as  short  as  I  civilly  could — for  I  had  alroidy 
determined  to  check  the  least  approach  to  any  exchanging  of  confidences 
between  Count  Fosco  and  myself.  Laura^  however,  unconsciously  helped 
him  to  extract  all  my  information,  by  making  inquiries  herself,  which  left 
me  no  alternative  but  to  reply  to  her,  or  to  appear  in  the  very  unenviable  and 


THE  WOMAN   IK  MTBITB.  185 

very  false  character  of  a  depositaTy  of  Sir  FerciTaVs  secrets,  'llie  end  of  it 
iras,  that^  in  about  ten  minutes*  time,  the  Count  knew  as  much  as  I  know 
of  Mis.  Caiherick,  and  of  the  events  which  have  so  strangely  connected  us 
with  her  daughter,  Anne,  fram  the  time  when  Hartright  met  with  her,  to 
this  day. 

The  effect  of  my  information  on  him  was,  in  one  respect,  curious  enough. 

Intimately  as  he  knows  Sir  Fercival,  and  closely  as  he  appears  to  be 
associated  with  Sir  Percivars  private  i^airs  in  generali  he  is  certainly  as 
&r  as  I  am  fix>ni  knowing  anything  of  the  true  story  of  Anne  Catherick, 
The  unsolved  mystery  in  connexion  with  this  unhappy  woman  is  now 
rendered  doubly  suspicious,  in  my  eyes,  by  the  absolute  conviction  which 
I  feel,  that  the  clue  to  it  has  been  hidden  by  Sir  Fercival  from  the  most 
intimate  friend  he  has  in  the  world.  It  was  impossible  to  mistake  the 
eager  curiosity  of  the  Count's  look  and  manner  while  he  drank  in  greedily 
every  word  that  fell  from  my  lips.  There  are  many  kinds  of  curiosity,  I 
know— -but  there  is  no  misinterpreting  the  curiosity  of  blank  surprise :  if  I 
ever  saw  it  in  my  life,  I  saw  it  in  the  Count's  6ice. 

While  the  questions  and  answers  were  going  on,  we  had  all  been  stroll- 
ing quietly  back,  through  the  plantation.  As  soon  as  we  reached  the 
house,  the  first  object  that  we  saw  in  front  of  it  was  Sir  Fercival's  dog- 
cart, with  the  horse  put  to  and  the  groom  waiting  by  it  in  his  stable-jacket. 
If  these  unexpected  appearances  were  to  be  trusted,  the  examination  of  the 
housekeeper  had  produced  important  results  already. 

*'  A  fine  horse,  my  friend,"  said  the  Count,  addressing  the  groom  witk 
the  most  engagix^  familiarity  of  manner.    ''  You  are  going  to  drive  out  ?** 

'*  1  am  not  going,  sir,"  replied  the  man,  looking  at  his  stable-jacket,  an^ 
evidently  wondering  whether  the  foreign  gentleman  took  it  for  his  livery. 
"  My  master  drives  himself." 

"  AhaT*  said  the  Count,  '*  does  he  indeed  ?  I  wonder  he  gives  himself 
the  trouble  when  he  has  got  you  to  drive  for  him.  Is  he  going  to  fatigue 
that  nice,  shining,  pretty  horse  by  taking  him  very  far,  to-day  ?" 

"  I  don't  know,  sir,"  answered  the  man.  **  The  horse  is  a  mare,  if  you 
please,  sir.  She's  the  highest-cours^ed  thing  we've  got  in  the  stables 
Her  name's  Brown  Molly,  sir ;  and  she'll  go  till  she  drops.  Sir  Fercival 
usually  takes  Isaac  of  York  for  the  short  distances." 

•  And  your  shining  courageous  Brown  Molly  for  the  long  ?" 

«  Yes,  sir." 

''Logical  inference,  Miss  Halcombe,"  continued  the  Count,  wheeling 
round  briskly,  and  addressing  me :  "  Sir  Fercival  is  going  a  long  distance 
to-day." 

I  made  no  reply.  I  had  my  own  inferences  to  draw,  from  what  I  knew 
through  the  housekeeper  and  from  what  I  saw  before  me ;  and  I  did  not 
choose  to  share  them  with  Count  Fobco. 


186  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

When  Sir  Fenn7al  was  in  Oumberland  (I  thouglit  to  myself),  he  walked 
av^ay  a  long  distance,  on  Anne's  account,  to  question  the  family  at  Todd's 
Corner.  Now  he  is  in  Hampshire,  is  he  going  to  drive  away  a  long 
distance,  on  Anne's  account  again,  to  question  Mrs.  Catherick  at  Welming- 
ham? 

We  all  entered  the  house.  As  we  crossed  the  hall,  Sir  Percival  came 
out  from  the  lihrary  to  meet  us.  He  looked  hurried  and  pale  and  anxious 
—but,  for  all  that,  he  was  in  his  most  polite  mood,  when  he  spoke  to  ua. 

**  I  am  sorry  to  say,  I  am  obliged  to  leave  you,"  he  began—  "  a  long  drire 
— a  matter  that  I  can't  very  well  put  off.  I  shall  bo  back  in  good  time 
to-morrow — ^but,  before  I  go,  1  should  like  that  little  business-formality-, 
which  I  spoke  of  this  morning,  to  be  settled.  Laura,  will  you  come  into 
the  library  ?  It  won't  take  a  minute — a  mere  formality.  Countess,  may 
I  trouble  you  also  ?  I  want  you  and  the  Countess,  Fosco,  to  be  witnesses 
to  a  signature — ^nothing  more.    Come  in  at  once,  and  get  it  over.*' 

He  held  the  library  door  open  until  they  had  passed  in,  followed  them 
and  shut  it  softly. 

I  remained,  for  a  moment  afterwards,  standing  alone  in  the  hall,  with 
siy  heart  beating  fest,  and  my  mind  misgiving  me  sadly.     Then,  I  went 
on  to  the  staircase,  and  ascended  slowly  to  my  own  room. 

IV. 
June  17th — Just  as  my  hand  was  on  the  door  of  my  room,  I  heard  Sir 
Peroival's  voice  calling  to  me  from  below. 

'*  I  must  beg  you  to  come  down  stairs  again,"  he  said.  **  It  is  Fosco's 
fault,  Miss  Halcombe,  not  mine.  He  has  started  some  nonsensical  objec- 
tion to  his  wife  being  one  of  the  witnesses,  and  has  obliged  me  to  ask  you 
to  join  us  in  the  library." 

I  entered  the  room  immediately  with  Sir  Percival.  Laura  was  waiting 
by  the  writing-table,  twisting  and  turning  her  garden  hat  uneasily  in  her 
hands.  Madame  Fosco  sat  near  her,  in  an  arm-chair,  imperturbably 
admiring  her  husband,  who  stood  by  himself  at  the  other  end  of  the 
library,  picking  off  the  dead  leaves  from  the  flowers  in  the  window. 

The  moment  I  appeared,  the  Count  advanced  to  meet  me,  and  to  offer 
his  explanations. 

"A  thousand  pardons,  Miss  Halcombe,'*  he  said.  "You  know  the 
character  which  is  given  to  my  countrymen  by  the  English  ?  We  Italians 
are  all  wily  and  suspicious  by  nature,  in  the  estimation  of  the  good  John 
Bull.  Set  me  down,  if  you  please,  as  being  no  better  than  the  rest  of  my  race. 
I  am  a  wily  Italian  and  a  suspicious  Italian.  You  have  thought  so  your- 
self, dear  lady,  have  you  not?  Well !  it  is  part  of  my  wiliness  and  part  of 
my  suspicion  to  object  to  Madame  Fosco  being  a  witness  to  Lady  Glyde's 
signature,  when  I  am  also  a  witness  myself,** 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  187 

"There  is  not  the  shadow  of  a  reason  for  his  objectiony**  interposed  Sir 
Peidval.  ''I  have  explained  to  him  that  the  law  of  England  allows 
JUadame  Fosco  to  witness  a  signature  as  well  as  her  husband." 

"I admit  it,"  resumed  the  Count.  "The  law  of  England  says,  Yes — 
but  the  conscience  of  Fosco  says,  No."  He  spread  out  his  fat  fingers  on 
the  bosom  of  his  blouse,  and  bowed  solemnly,  as  if  he  wished  to  introduce 
his  conscience  to  us  all,  in  the  character  of  an  illustrious  addition  to  the 
society.  "  What  this  document  which  Lady  Glyde  is  about  to  sign,  may 
be,"  he  continued,  '*  I  neither  know  nor  desire  to  know.  I  only  say  this : 
circumstances  may  happen  in  the  future  which  may  oblige  Percival,  or  his 
representatives,  to  appeal  to  the  two  witnesses ;  in  which  case  it  is  certainly 
desirable  that  those  witnesses  should  represent  two  opinions  which  are 
perfectly  independent  the  one  of  the  other.  This  cannot  be  if  my  wife 
signs  as  well  as  myself,  because  we  have  but  one  opinion  between  us,  and 
that  opinion  is  mine.  I  will  not  have  it  cast  in  my  teeth,  at  some  future 
day,  that  Madame  Fosco  acted  under  my  coercion,  and  was,  in  plain  fact, 
no  witness  at  all.  I  speak  in  Percival's  interest  when  I  propose  that  my 
name  shall  appear  (as  the  nearest  friend  of  the  husband),  and  your  name, 
Miss  Halcombe  (as  the  nearest  friend  of  the  wife).  I  am  a  Jesuit,  if  you 
please  to  think  so— a  splitter  of  straws — a  man  of  trifles  and  crotchets  and 
scruples — but  you  vtUI  humour  me,  I  hope,  in  merciful  consideration  for 
my  suspicious  Italian  character,  and  my  uneasy  Italian  conscience,"  He 
bowed  again,  stepped  back  a  few  paces,  and  withdrew  his  conscience  from 
our  society  as  politely  as  he  had  introduced  it* 

The  Count's  scruples  might  have  berai  honourable  and  reasonable  enough, 
but  there  was  something  in  his  manner  of  expressing  them  which  increased 
niy  unwillingness  to  be  concerned  in  the  business  of  the  signature.  No 
consideration  of  less  importance  than  my  consideration  for  Laura,  would 
bave  induced  me  to  consent  to  be  a  witness  at  all.  One  look,  however,  at 
her  anxious  face,  decided  me  toTisk  anything  rather  than  desert  her. 

*^I  will  readily  remain  in  the  room,"  I  said.  "And  if  I  find  no 
reason  for  starting  any  small  scruplea,  on  my  side,  you  may  rely  on  me  as 
a  witness. ' 

Sir  Percival  looked  at  me  sharply,  as  if  he  was  about  to  say  something. 
But,  at  the  same  moment,  Madame  Fosco  attracted  his  attention  by  rising 
from  her  chair.  .She  had  caught  her  husband's  eye,  and  had  evidently 
received  her  orders  to  leave  the  room. 

"You  needn't  go,"  said  Sir  Percival. 

Madame  Fosco  looked  for  her  orders  again,  got  them  again,  said  she 
Would  prefer  leaving  us  to  our  business,  and  resolutely  walked  out.  The 
Count  Ut  a  cigarette,  went  back  to  the  flowers  in  the  window,  and  puffed 
little  jets  of  smoke  at  the  leaves,  in  a  state  of  the  deepest  anxiety  about 
killing  the  iiisects. 


lt$^  lUK    IVOMAN   m   WHITE. 

Mejuiwhile,  Sir  l^ercival  unlocked  a  cupboard  beneath  one  of  the  book« 
cases,  and  produced  from  it  a  piece  of  parchment  folded,  longwise,  many 
times  over.  He  placed  it  on  the  table,  opened  the  last  fold  only,  and  kept 
his  hand  on  the  rest.  The  last  fold  displayed  a  strip  of  blank  parchment 
with  little  wafers  stuck  on  it  at  certain  places.  Every  line  of  the  writing 
was  hidden  in  the  part  which  he  still  held  folded  up  under  his  hand. 
Laura  and  I  looked  at  each  other.  Hef  face  was  ijaXe — but  it  showed  no 
indecision  and  no  fear. 

Sir  Fercival  dipped  a  pen  in  ink,  and  handed  it  to  his  wife. 

'*  Sign  your  name,  there,**  he  said,  pointing  to  the  place.  "You  and 
Fosco  are  to  sign  afterwards,  Miss  Halcombe,  opposite  those  two  wafers. 
Come  here,  Fosco  1  witnessing  a  signature  is  not  to  be  done  by  mooning 
out  of  window  and  smoking  iuto  the  flowers." 

The  Count  threw  away  his  cigarette,  and  joined  us  at  the  table,  with  his 
hands  carelessly  thrust  into  the  scarlet  belt  of  his  blouse,  and  his  eyes 
steadily  fixed  on  Sir  Fercival's  face.  Laura,  who  was  on  the  other  side  of 
her  husband,  with  the  pen  in  her  hand,  looked  at  him,  too.  He  stood 
between  them,  holding  the  folded  parchment  down  firmly  on  the  tabic,  and 
glancing  across  at  me,  as  I  sat  opposite  to  him,  with  such  a  sinister  mix- 
ture of  suspicion  and  embarrassment  in  his  faccj  that  he  looked  more  like  a 
prisoner  at  the  bar  than  a  gentleman  in  his  own  house. 

"Sign  there,**  he  repeated,  turning  suddenly  on  Laura,  and  pointing 
once  more  to  the  place  on  the  parchment. 

"  What  is  it  I  am  to  sign  P*  she  asked,  quietly. 

"  I  have  no  time  to  explain,'*  he  answered.  **  The  dog-cart  is  at  the 
door ;  and  I  must  go  directly.  Besides,  if  I  had  time,  you  wouldn't  under- 
stand. It  is  a  purely  formal  document — full  of  legal  technicalities,  and  all 
that  sort  of  thing.  Come  1  come  1  sign  your  name,  and  let  us  have  done 
as  soon  as  possible.** 

**  I  ought  surely  to  know  what  I  am  signing.  Sir  Percival,  before  I  write 
my  name  ?" 

"Nonsense!  What  have  women  to  do  with  business?  I  tell  you 
again,  you  can*t  understand  it.** 

"  At  any  rate,  let  me  try  to  understand  it.  Whenever  Mr.  Gilmore  had 
any  business  for  me  to  do,  he  always  explained  it^  first ;  and  I  always 
understood  him." 

"  I  dare  say  he  did.  He  was  your  servant,  and  was  obliged  to  explain. 
I  am  your  husband,  and  am  not  obliged.  How  much  longer  do  you  mean 
to  keep  me  here  ?  I  tell  you  again,  there  is  no  time  for  reading  anything : 
the  dog-cart  is  waiting  at  the  door.  Once  for  all,  will  you  sign,  or  w  ill 
you  not  ?** 

She  still  had  the  pen  in  her  hand  ;  but  she  made  no  approach  to  i^guing 
her  name  with  it» 


THE  VOMAK  IN  WHITfe.  139 

•*If  my  Signature  pledges  me  to  anything,"  she  said,  "surely,  I  Live 
jome  claim  to  know  what  that  pledge  is  F* 

He  lifted  up  the  parchment,  and  struck  it  angrily  on  the  tahle. 

**  Speak  out !"  he  said.  "  You  were  always  famous  for  tolling  the  truth. 
Never  mind  Miss  Halcomhe  ;  never  mind  Fosco — say,  in  plain  terms,  you 
distrust  me." 

The  Count  took  one  of  his  hands  out  of  his  belt,  and  laid  it  on  Sir 
Perdval's  shoulder.  Sir  Percival  shook  it  oflf  irritably.  The  Count  put  it 
on  again  with  unruffled  composure. 

"Control  your  unfortunate  temper,  Percival,"  he  said.  "Lady  Glyde  is 
right." 

**  Right !"  cried  Sir  Percival.    "  A  wife  right  in  distrusting  her  husband  1" 

"It  is  unjust  and  cruel  to  accuse  me  of  distrusting  you,"  said  Laura. 
"  Ask  Marian  if  I  am  not  justified  in  wanting  to  know  what  this  writing 
requires  of  me,  before  I  sign  it  ?" 

"I  won't  have  any  appeals  made  to  Miss  Halcombe,"  retorted  Sir 
Percival.    **  Miss  Halcombe  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  matter." 

I  had  not  spoken  hitherto,  and  I  would  much  rather  not  have  spoken 
now.  But  the  expression  of  distress  in  Laura's  face  ^hen  she  turned  it 
towards  me,  and  the  insolent  injustice  of  her  husband's  conduct,  left  me  no 
other  alternative  than  to  give  my  opinion,  for  her  sake,  as  soon  as  I  was 
asked  for  it. 

"Excuse  me.  Sir  Percival,"  I  said — "but,  as  one  of  the  witnesses  to  the 
signature,  I  venture  to  think  that  I  liave  something  to  do  with  the  matter. 
Unra's  objection  seems  to  me  a  perfectly  fair  one;  and,  speaking  for 
myself  only,  I  cannot  assume  the  responsibility  of  witnessing  her  signa- 
ture, unless  she  first  understands  what  the  writing  is  which  you  wish  her 
to  sign." 

"  A  cool  declaration,  upon  my  soul !"  cried  Sir  Percival.  "  The  next 
time  you  invite  yourself  to  a  man's  house,  Miss  Halcombe,  I  recommend 
yoQ  not  to  repay  his  hospitality  by  taking  his  wife's  side  against  him  in  a 
matter  that  doesn't  concern  you." 

I  started  to  my  feet  as  suddenly  as  if  he  had  struck  me.  If  I  had  been 
a  man,  I  would  have  knocked  him  down  on  the  threshold  of  his  own  door, 
and  have  left  his  house,  never  on  any  earthly  consideration  to  enter  it 
again.    But  I  was  only  a  woman — and  1  loved  his  wife  so  dearly ! 

Thank  God,  that  &itlifal  love  helped  me,  and  I  sat  down  again,  without 
saying  a  word.  ;SAe  knew  what  I  had  suffered  and  what  I  had  suppressed. 
She  ran  round  to  me,  with  the  tears  streaming  from  her  eyes.  "Oh, 
Marian  I"  she  whispered  softly.  "  If  my  mother  had  been  alive,  she  could 
have  done  no  more  for  me !" 

"Come  back  and  sign  /"  cried  Sir  Percival,  from  the  other  side  of  th« 
table. 


igO  THE  WOMAH  IN  WHIW 

«*  Shall  I  ?*•  she  asked  in  my  ear ;  "I  will,  if  you  tell  me.** 

•'No,"  I  answered.  "The  right  and  the  truth  are  with  you — riga 
nothmg,  unless  you  have  read  it  first." 

"  Cune  back  and  sign !''  he  reiterated,  in  his  loudest  and  angriest  tones. 

The  Count,  who  had  watched  Laura  and  me  with  a  close  and  silent 
attention,  interposed  for  the  second  time. 

"  Percival  !**  he  said.  "  /  remember  that  I  am  in  the  presence  of  ladies. 
Be  good  enough,  if  you  please,  to  remember  it,  too." 

Sir  Percival  turned  on  him,  speechless  with  passion.  The  Ck)ujit*8  firm 
hand  slowly  tightened  its  grasp  on  his  shoulder,  and  the  Count's  steady 
voice,  quietly  repeated,  "  Be  good  enough,  if  you  please,  to  remember  it, 
too." 

They  both  looked  at  each  other :  Sir  Percival  slowly  drew  his  shoulder 
from  under  the  Count's  hand;  slowly  turned  his  face  away  from  the 
Count's  eyes ;  doggedly  looked  down  for  a  little  while  at  the  parchment 
on  the  table;  and  then  spoke,  with  the  sullen  submission  of  a  tamed 
animal,  rather  than  the  becoming  resignation  of  a  convinced  man. 

"  I  don't  want  to  offend  anybody,"  he  said,  **  but  my  wife's  obstinacy  is 
enough  to  try  the  patience  of  a  saint.  I  have  told  her  this  is  merely  a 
formal  document — and  what  more  can  she  want?  Tou  may  say  what 
you  please ;  but  it  is  no  part  of  a  woman's  duty  to  set  her  husband  at 
defiance.  Once  more.  Lady  Glyde,  and  for  the  last  time,  will  you  sign  or 
will  you  not?" 

Laura  returned  to  his  side  of  the  table,  and  took  up  the  pen  again. 

**  I  will  sign  with  pleasure,"  she  said,  "  if  you  will  only  treat  me  as  a 
responsible  being.  I  care  little  what  sacrifice  is  required  of  me,  if  it  will 
affect  no  one  else,  and  lead  to  no  ill  results — ** 

"  Who  talked  of  a  sacrifice  being  required  of  you?"  he  broke  in,  with  a 
half-suppressed  return  of  his  former  violence. 

"  I  only  meant,"  she  resumed,  "  that  I  would  refuse  no  concession  which 
I  could  honourably  make.  If  I  have  a  scruple  about  signing  my  name  to 
an  engagement  of  which  I  know  nothing,  why  should  you  visit  it  on  me  so 
severely?  It  is  rather  hard,  I  think,  to  treat  Count  Fosco's  scruples  so 
much  more  indulgently  than  you  have  treated  mine." 

This  unfortunate,  yet  most  natural,  reference  to  the  Count's  extra- 
ordinary power  over  her  husband,  indirect  as  it  was,  set  Sir  Percival's 
smouldering  ten^r  on  fire  again  in  an  instant. 

"  Scruples !"  he  repeated.  "  Tour  scruples  1  It  is  rather  late  in  the 
day  for  you  to  biB  scrupulous.  I  should  have  thought  you  had  got  over  all 
weakness  of  that  sort,  when  you  made  a  virtue  of  necessity  by  marrying 
we" 

The  instant  he  spoke  those  words,  Laura  threw  down  the  pen — ^looked  at 
him  with  an  expression  in  her  eyes,  which  throughout  all  my  experieooe  of 


ffifi  WOMAN  IN  WBm.  191 

her,  1  had  neVer  seen  in  them  before — and  tamed  Ler  back  on  him  in  dead 
sikDce. 

This  strong  expression  of  the  most  open  and  the  most  bitter  contempt, 
was  so  entirely  unlike  herself,  so  utterly  out  of  her  character,  that  it 
silenced  us  alL  There  waa  something  hidden,  beyond  a  doubt,  under  the 
mere  surface-brutality  of  the  words  which  her  husband  had  just  addressed 
to  her.  There  was  some  lurking  insult  beneath  them,  of  which  I  was 
wholly  ignorant,  but  which  had  left  the  mark  of  its  profanation  so  plainly 
on  her  face  that  even  a  stranger  might  have  seen  it. 

The  Count,  wbo  was  no  stranger,  saw  it  as  distinctly  as  I  did.  When  I 
left  my  chair  to  join  Laura,  I  heard  him  whisper  under  his  breath  to  Sir 
Percival :  "  You  idiot  1" 

Laura  walked  before  me  to  the  door  as  I  advanced ;  and,  at  the  same 
time,  her  husband  spoke  to  her  once  more. 

"You  positively  refuse,  then,  to  give  me  your  signature?**  he  said,  in 
the  altered  tone  of  a  man  who  was  conscious  that  he  had  let  his  own 
licence  of  language  seriously  injure  him. 

"  After  what  you  have  just  said  to  me,**  she  replied,  firmly,  "  I  refuse 
mjr  signature  until  I  have  read  every  line  in  that  parchment  from  the  first 
word  to  the  last.  Gome  away,  Marian,  we  have  remained  hew  long 
enough." 

"  One  moment  1**  interposed  the  Count,  before  Sir  Percival  could  speak 
■gain — "  one  moment.  Lady  Glyde,  I  implore  you  !** 

Laura  would  have  left  the  room  without  noticing  him ;  but  I  stopped 
her. 

** Don't  make  an  enemy  of  the  Count !**  I  whispered.  "Whatever  you 
do,  don't  make  an  enemy  of  the  Count  !** 

She  yielded  to  me.  I  closed  the  door  again ;  and  we  stood  near  it,  wait- 
ing. Sir  Percival  sat  down  at  the  table,  with  his  elbow  on  the  folded 
parchment,  and  his  head  resting  on  his  clenched  fist.  The  Count  stood 
between  us — master  of  the  dreadful  position  in  which  we  were  placed,  as 
he  was  master  of  everything  else. 

*'  I^y  Glyde,"  he  said,  with  a  gentleness  which  seemed  to  address  itself 
to  our  forlorn  situation  instead  of  to  ourselves,  **  pray  pardon  me,  if  I  ven- 
ture to  offer  one  suggestion ;  and  pray  believe  that  I  speak  out  of  my  pro- 
found respect  and  my  friendly  regard  for  the  misti-ess  of  this  house."  He 
turned  sharply  towards  Sir  Percivah  "Is  it  absolutely  necessary,"  he 
Bsked,  "  that  this  thing  here,  under  your  elbow,  should  be  signed  to-day  ?" 

"  It  is  necessary  to  my  plans  and  wishes,"  returned  the  other,  sulkily. 
**  But  that  consideration,  as  you  may  have  noticed,  has  no  influence  with 
Lady  Glyde." 

'*  Answer  my  plain  question,  plainly.  Can  the  bosiness  of  the  signature 
bo  put  off  till  to-morrow — ^Yes  or  No?" 


ig2  the:  wovav  ik  whitb 

•«  Yes — ^if  you  will  have  it  so." 

*'  Then,  what  are  you  wasting  yonr  time  for,  here  ?  Let  the  dgnatare 
wait  till  to-morrow — ^let  it  wait  till  you  come  hack." 

Sir  Percival  looked  up  with  a  frown  and  an  oath. 

'*  You  are  taking  a  tone  with  me  that  I  don't  like,"  he  said.  *'  A  tone  I 
won't  bear  from  any  man." 

'*  1  am  advising  you  for  your  good,"  returned  the  County  with  a  smile  cf 
quiet  contempt.  **  Give  yourself  time ;  give  Lady  Glyde  time.  Have  you 
forgotten  that  your  dog-cart  is  waiting  at  the  door  ?  My  tone  surprises 
you 'ha  ?  I  dare  say  it  does — ^it  is  the  tone  of  a  man  who  can  keep  his 
temper.  How  many  doses  of  good  advice  have  I  given  you  in  my  time  ? 
More  than  you  can  count.  Have  I  ever  been  wrong  ?  I  defy  you  to  qndte 
me  an  instance  of  it.  Go  1  take  your  drive.  The  matter  of  tiie  signature 
can  wait  till  to-morrow.  Let  it  wait — and  renew  it  when  you  oomo 
back." 

Sir  Percival  hesitated,  and  looked  at  his  watch.  His  anxiiety  about  the 
secret  journey  which  he  was  to  take  that  day,  revived  by  the  Count's 
words,  was  now  evidently  disputing  possession  of  his  mind  with  his  anxiely 
to  obtain  Laura's  signature.  He  considered  for  a  little  while ;  and  then 
got  up  from  his  chair. 

"  It  is  easy  to  argue  me  down,''  he  said,  **  when  I  have  no  time  to  answer 
you.  I  will  take  your  advice,  Fosco—not  because  I  want  it,  or  believe  in 
it,  but  because  I  can't  stop  here  any  longer."  He  paused,  and  looked 
round  darkly  at  his  wife.  *'  If  you  don't  give  me  your  signature  when  I 
come  back  to-morrow — !"  The  rest  was  lost  in  the  noise  of  his  opening 
the  book-case  cupboard  again,  and  locking  up  the  parchment  once  more. 
He  took  his  hat  and  gloves  off  the  table,  and  made  for  the  door.  Liaura 
and  I  drew  back  to  let  him  pass.  '*  Remember  to-morrow  1"  he  said  to  his 
wife ;  and  went  out. 

We  waited  to  give  him  time  to  cross  the  hall,  and  drive  away.  The 
Count  approached  us  while  we  were  standing  near  the  door. 

'*You  have  just  seen  Percival  at  his  worst,  Miss  Haloombe,"  he  said. 
**  As  his  old  friend,  I  am  sorry  for  him  and  ashamed  of  him.  As  his  old 
friend,  I  promise  you  that  he  shall  not  break  out  tonnorrow  in  the  same 
disgraceful  manner  in  which  he  has  broken  out  to-day." 

Laura  had  taken  my  arm  while  he  was  speaking,  and  she  pressed  it  sig- 
nificantly when  he  had  done.  It  would  have  been  a  hard  trial  to  any 
woman  to  stand  by  and  see  the  office  of  apologist  for  her  husband's  mis- 
conduct quietly  assumed  by  his  male  friend  in  her  own  house — and  it  was 
a  trial  to  her,  I  thanked  the  Count  civilly,  and  led  her  out.  Yes  1  I 
thanked  him :  for  I  felt  already,  with  a  sense  of  inexpressible  helpleasQess 
and  humiliation,  that  it  was  either  his  interest  or  his  caprice  to  make  sure 
of  my  continuing  to  reside  at  Blackw^ter  Park ;  and  I  knew  after  Sir 


THE  WOMAN  IK  WHITE.  Itfd 

Perciyars  conduct  to  me,  that  without  the  support  of  the  Count's  influence, 
I  could  not  hope  to  remain  there.  His  influence,  the  influence  of  all  othevs 
that  I  dreaded  most,  was  actually  the  one  tie  which  now  held  me  to  Laura 
in  the  hour  of  her  utmost  need  1 

We  heard  the  wheels  of  the  dog-cart  crashing  on  the  gravel  of  the  drive, 
as  we  came  into  the  hall.    Sir  Fercival  had  started  on  his  journey. 

"Where  is  he  going  to,  Marian?*'  Laura  whispered.  ** Every  fresh 
thing  he  does,  seems  to  terrify  me  ahout  the  future.  Have  you  any 
suspicions  ?" 

After  what  she  had  undergone  that  morning,  I  was  unwilling  to  tell  her 
my  suspicions. 

"  How  should  I  know  his  secrets,"  I  said,  evasively. 

"I  wonder  if  the  housekeeper  knows  ?"  she  persisted. 

"Certainly  not,"  I  replied.  "She  must  be  quite  as  ignorant  as  we 
are." 

Lama  shook  her  head  doubtfully. 

"Did  you  not  hear  from  the  housekeeper  that  there  was  a  report  of 
Anne  Catherick  having  been  seen  in  this  neighbourhood?  Don't  you 
think  he  may  have  gone  away  to  look  for  her?" 

**  I  would  rather  compose  myself,  Laura,  by  not  thinking  about  it,  at 
all ;  and,  after  what  has  happened,  you  had  better  follow  my  example. 
Come  into  my  room,  and  rest  and  quiet  yourself  a  little." 

We  sat  doAvn  together  close  to  the  window,  aod  let  the  fragrant  summer 
air  breathe  over  our  faces. 

"  I  am  ashamed  to  look  at  you,  Marian,"  she  said,  '*  after  what  you  sub- 
mitted to  down  stairs,  for  my  sake.  Oh,  my  own  love,  I  am  almost  heart- 
hroken,  when  I  think  of  it  1  But  I  will  try  to  make  it  up  to  you — ^I  will 
indeed !" 

"Hush !  hush !"  I  replied ;  "don't  talk  so.  What  is  the  trifling  morti- 
fication of  my  pride  compared  to  the  dreadful  sacrifice  of  your  happiness?" 

"You  heard  what  he  said  to  me?"  she  went  on,  quickly  fmd  vehe- 
mently. "  You  heard  the  words — but  you  don't  know  what  they  meant — 
you  don't  know  why  I  threw  down  the  pen  and  turned  my  back  on  him." 
She  rose  in  sudden  s^tation,  and  walked  about  the  room.  "  I  have  kept 
many  things  from  your  knowledge,  Marian,  for  fear  of  distressing  you,  and 
making  you  unhappy  at  the  outset  of  our  new  lives.  You  don't  know  how 
he  has  used  me.  And  yet,  you  ought  to  know,  for  you  saw  how  he  used 
me  to-day.  You  heard  him  snfter  at  my  presuming  to  be  scrupulous ;  you 
heard  him  say  I  had  made  a  virtue  of  necessity  in  marrying  him."  She 
Bat  down  again ;  her  face  flushed  deeply,  and  her  hands  twisted  and  twined 
together  in  her  lap.  "  I  can't  tell  you  about  it  now,"  she  said ;  "  I  shall 
I'urst  out  crying  if  I  tell  you  now — later,  Marian,  when  I  am  more  sure  of 

o^yself.    My  pour  head  aches,  darling — aches,  aches,  aches.    Where  is 

o 


11^4  THE  WOMAN  IN  WUXTB. 

yoQT  8mening4)ottle  ?  Let  me  talk  to  you  al)Otit  yourself.  I  wish  I  hail 
given  him  my  signature,  for  your  sake^  Shall  I  give  it  to  him,  to* 
morrow?  I  would  rather  compromise  myself  than  compromise  you. 
After  your  taking  my  part  against  him,  he  will  lay  all  the  blame  on  you, 
if  I  refuse  again.  What  shall  we  do  ?  Oh,  for  a  friend  to  help  us  and 
advise  Tis  1 — a  friend  we  could  really  trust !" 

She  sighed  bitterly.  I  saw  in  her  face  that  she  was  thinking  of  Hart- 
right — saw  it  the  more  plainly  because  her  last  words  set  me  thinking  of 
him,  too.  In  six  months  only  from  her  marriage,  we  wanted  the  faithful 
service  he  had  offered  to  us  in  his  farewell  words.  How  little  I  once 
thought  that  we  should  ever  want  it  at  all ! 

**  We  must  do  what  we  can  to  help  ourselves,"  I  said.  "  Let  us  try  to 
talk  it  over  calmly,'  Lauras-let  ua  do  all  in  our  power  to  decide  for  the 
best." 

Putting  what  she  knew  of  her  husband's  embarrassments,  and  what  I 
had  heard  of  his  conversation  with  the  lawyer,  together.  We  arrived  neces- 
sarily at  the  conclusion  that  the  parchment  in  the  library  had  been  drawn 
up  for  the  purpose  of  borrowing  money,  and  that  Laura's  signature  was 
absolutely  necessary  to  fit  it  for  the  attainment  of  Sir  Percival's  object. 

The  second  question,  concerning  the  nature  of  the  legal  contract  by 
which  the  money  was  to  be  obtained,  and  the  degree  of  personal  responsi- 
bility to  which  Laura  might  subject  herself  if  she  signed  it  in  the  dark. 
Involved  considerations  which  lay  far  beyond  any  knowledge  and  ex- 
perience that  either  of  us  possessed.  My  own  convictions  led  me  to 
believe  that  the  hidden  contents  of  the  pardhment  concealed  a  transaction 
of  the  meanest  and  the  most  fraudulent  kind. 

I  had  not  formed  this  conclusion  in  consequence  of  Sir  Percival's  refusal 
to  show  the  writing,  or  to  explain  it ;  for  that  refusal  might  well  have  pro- 
ceeded from  his  obstinate  disposition  and  his  domineering  temper  alone. 
My  sole  motive  for  distrusting  his  honesty,  sprang  from  the  change  which 
I  had  observed  in  his  language  and  his  manners  at  Blackwater  Park,  a 
change  which  convinced  me  that  he  had  been  acting  a  part  throughout  the 
whole  period  of  his  probation  at  Limmeridge  House.  His  elaborate  deli- 
cacy; his  ceremonious  politeness,  which  harmonized  so  agreeably  with 
Mr.  Qilmore's  old-fashioned  notions ;  his  modesty  with  Laura,  his  candour 
with  me,  his  moderation  with  Mr.  Fairlie — all  these  were  the  artifices  of  a 
mean,  cunning,  and  brutal  man,  who  had  dropped  his  disguise  when  his 
practised  duplicity  had  gained  its  end,  and  had  openly  shown  himself  in 
the  library,  on  that  very  day.  I  say  nothing  of  the  grief  which  this  dia- 
covery  caused  me  on  Laura's  account,  for  it  is  not  to  be  expressed  by  any 
words  of  mine.  I  only  refer  to  it  at  all,  because  it  decided  me  to  oppose 
her  signing  the  parchment,  whatever  the  consequenijes  might  be»  milesf 
she  was  first  made  acquainted  with  the  contents. 


THB  WOMAN  IN    WHITE.  195 

Under  these  circumstanoes,  the  one  chanoe  for  us  when  to-monowcamc, 
was  to  be  provided  with  an  objection  to  giving  the  signature,  which  might 
Rst  <m  safficienily  firm  commercial  or  legal  grounds  to  shake  Sir  Ferdval's 
roolntion,  and  to  mAke  him  suspect  that  we  two  women  understood  the 
laws  and  ohli^tious  of  business  as  well  as  himself. 

After  some  pondering,  I  determined  to  write  to  the  only  honest  man 
within  reach  whom  we  could  trust  to  help  us  discreetly,  in  our  forlorn 
8itaati(»i.  That  man  was  Mr.  Gilmore's  partner — Mr.  Kyrlc^who  con- 
ducted the  business,  now  that  our  old  friend  had  been  obliged  to  withdraw 
horn  it,  and  to  leave  London  on  account  of  his  health.  I  explained  to 
Laora  that  I  had  Mr.  Gilmore's  own  authority  for  placing  implicit  con- 
fidence in  his  partner*s  integrity,  discretion,  and  accurate  knowledge  of  all 
her  afibirs ;  and,  with  her  full  approval,  I  sat  down  at  once  to  write  the 
letter. 

I  b^an  by  stating  our  position  to  Mr.  Kyrle  exactly  as  it  was ;  and 
then  asked  for  his  advice  in  return,  expressed  in  plain,  downright  terms 
which  he  could  comprehend  without  any  danger  of  misinterpretations  and 
mistakes.  My  letter  was  as  short  as  I  could  possibly  make  it,  and  was,  I 
hope,  unencumbered  by  needless  apologies  and  needless  details. 

Just  as  I  was  about  to  put  the  address  on  the  envelope^  an  obstacle  was 
discovered  by  Laura,  which  in  the  effort  and  pre-occupation  of  writing, 
had  escaped  my  mind  altogether. 

*'  How  are  we  to  get  the  answer  in  time  P^  she  asked.  *'  Tour  letter 
will  not  be  delivered  in  London  before  to-morrow  morning ;  and  the  post 
will  n^t  l»ing  the  reply  here  till  the  morning  after." 

T^e  only  way  of  overcoming  this  difficulty  was  to  have  the  answer 
brought  to  us  from,  the  lawyer's  office  by  a  special  messenger.  1  wrote  a 
postscript  to  that  effect^  begging  that  the  messenger  might  be  despatched 
with  the  reply  by  the  eleven  o'clock  morning  train,  which  would  bring 
him  to  our  station  at  twenty  minutes  past  one,  and  so  enable  him  to  reach 
Blackwater  Park  by  two  o'clock  at  the  latest.  He  was  to  be  directed  to 
ask  for  me,  to  answer  no  questions  addressed  to  him  by  any  one  else,  and 
to  deliver  bis  letter  into  no  hands  but  mine. 

"  In  case  Sir  Peroival  should  come  back  to-morrow  before  two  o'clock," 
I  said  to  Laura,  "  the  wisest  plan  for  you  to  adopt  is  to  be  out  in  the 
grounds,  all  the  morning,  with  your  book  or  your  work,  and  not  to  appear 
at  the  house  till  the  messenger  has  had  time  to  arrive  with  the  letter.  I 
will  wait  here  for  him,  all  the  morning,  to  guard  against  any  misadven- 
tures or  mistakes.  By  following  this  arrangement  I  hope  and  believe  w€ 
shall  avoid  being  taken  by  surprise.  Let  us  go  down  to  the  drawing-room 
Qow.    We  may  excite  suq)icion  if  we  remain  shut  up  together  too  long." 

^Suspicion?'*  she  repeated.  ''Whose  suspicion  can  we  excite,  uov 
that  Sir  Percival  has  left  tlie  house?    Do  you  mean  Count  Foslx)  ?" 


«< 

ti 


106  THE  WOMAK   Ul    WHITE. 

**  P'irliaps  I  do,  Lanm." 

"  Tou  are  beginning  to  dislike  him  as  much  as  I  do,  Marian.** 

"  No  ;  not  to  dislike  him.    Dislike  is  always,  more  or  less,  associated 
with  contempt — ^I  can  see  nothing  in  the  Coimt  to  despise.** 
You  are  not  afraid  of  him,  are  you?** 
Perhaps  I  am — a  little.** 

"  Afraid  of  him,  after  his  interference  in  our  favour  to-day !" 

"  Yes.  I  am  more  afraid  of  his  interference  than  I  am  of  Sir  Percival's 
violence.  Remember  what  I  said  to  you  in  the  library.  Whatever  you 
do,  Laura,  don't  make  an  enemy  of  the  Count  !** 

We  went  down  stairs.  Laura  entered  the  drawing-room ;  while  I  pro- 
ceeded across  the  hall,  with  my  letter  in  my  hand,  to  put  it  into  the  post- 
bag,  which  hung  against  the  wall  opposite  to  me. 

The  house  door  was  open ;  and,  as  I  crossed  past  it^  I  saw  Count  Fosco 
and  his  wife  standing  talking  together  on  the  steps  outside,  with  their  faces 
turned  towards  me. 

The  Countess  came  into  the  hall,  rather  hastily,  and  asked  if  I  bad 
leisure  enough  for  five  minutes'  private  conversation.  Feeling  a  little 
surprised  by  such  an  appeal  from  such  a  person,  I  put  my  letter  into  the 
bag,  and  replied  that  I  was  quite  at  her  disposal.  She  took  my  arm  with 
unaccustomed  friendliness  and  familiarity ;  and  instead  of  leading  me  into 
Hn  empty  room,  drew  me  out  with  her  to  the  belt  of  turf  which  sur- 
rounded the  large  fish-pond. 

As  we  passed  the  Count  on  the  steps,  he  bowed  and  smiled,  and  then 
went  at  once  into  the  house ;  pushing  the  hall-door  to  after  him,  but  not 
actually  closing  it. 

The  Countess  walked  me  gently  round  the  fish-pond.  I  expected  to  be 
TT^e  the  depositary  of  some  extraordinary  confidence;  and  I  was 
astonished  to  find  that  Madame  Fosco's  communication  for  my  private  ear 
was  nothing  more  than  a  polite  assurance  of  her  sympathy  for  me,  after 
what  had  happened  in  the  library.  Her  husband  had  told  her  of  all  that 
had  passed,  and  of  the  insolent  manner  in  which  Sir  Percival  had  spoken  to 
me.  This  information  had  so  shocked  and  distressed  her,  on  my  account 
and  on  Laura's,  that  she  had  made  up  her  mind,  if  anything  of  the  sort 
happened  again,  to  mark  her  sense  of  Sir  Fercival's  outrageous  conduct  by 
leaving  the  house.  The  Count  had  approved  of  her  idea,  and  she  now 
hoped  that  I  approved  of  it,  too, 

I  thought  this  a  very  strange  proceeding  on  the  part  of  such  a  remark- 
ably reserved  women  as  Madame  Fosco— especially  after  the  interchange  of 
sharp  speeches  which  had  passed  between  us  during  the  conversation  in  the 
boat-house,  on  that  very  morning.  However,  it  was  my  plain  duty  to 
meet  a  polite  and  friendly  ad7ance,  on  the  part  of  one  of  my  elders,  with  a 
polite  and  friendly  reply.    I  answered  the  Countess,  accordingly,  in  hef 


rH)£  WOMAN  IX   WHITE.  197 

own  tone  ;  and  then,  thinking  we  had  said  alt  that  iras  ueocRsnry  on  either 

Bide,  made  an  attempt  to  get  hack  to  the  honse. 

But  Madame  Fosoo  seemed  resolved  not  to  part  with  me,  and,  to  my 

nnspeakahle  amazement,  resolved  also  to  talk.  Hitherto,  the  most  silent  o( 

women,  she  now    persecuted  me  with   fluent  conventionalities  on  the 

Eubject  of  married  life,  on  the  subject  of  Sir  Fercival  and  Laura,  on  the 

subject  of  her  own  happiness,  on  the  subject  of  the  late  Mr.  Fairlie's 

conduct  to  her  in  the  matter  of  h»  legacy,  and  on  half  a  dozen  other 

subjects  besides,  until  she  had  detained  me,  walking  round  and  round  the 

fish-pond  for  more  than  half  an  hour,  and  had  quite  wearied  me  out. 

Whether  she  discovered  this,  or  not,  I  cannot  say,  but  she  stopped  as 

abraptly  as  she  had  begun — ^looked  towards  the  house  door,  resumed  her 

icy  manner  in  a  moment — and  dropped  my  arm  of  her  own  accord,  before 

I  could  think  of  an  excuse  for  accomplishing  my  own  release  from  her. 

As  I  pushed  open  the  door,  and  entered  the  hall,  I  found  myself  sud- 
denly face  to  face  with  the  Goimt  i^ain.  He  was  just  putting  a  letter 
into  the  post-bag. 

After  he  had  dropped  it  in,  and  had  closed  the  bag,  he  asked  me  where  I 
had  left  Madame  Fosco.  I  told  him ;  and  he  went  out  at  the  hall  door, 
immediately,  to  join  his  wife.  His  manner,  when  he  spoke  to  me,  was  so 
imusually  quiet  and  subdued  that  I  turned  and  looked  after  him,  wonder- 
ing if  he  were  ill  or  out  of  spirits. 

Why  my  next  proceeding  was  to  go  straight  up  to  the  post-bag,  and 
take  out  my  own  letter,  and  look  at  it  again,  with  a  vague  distrust  on  me ; 
and  why  the  looking  at  it  for  the  second  time  instantly  suggested  the  idea 
to  my  mind  of  sealing  the  envelope  7or  its  greater  security — are  mysteries 
whidi  are  either  too  deep  or  too  shallow  for  me  to  fathom.  Women,  as 
everybody  knows,  constantly  act  on  impulses  which  they  cannot  explain 
even  to  themselves ;  and  I  can  only  suppose  that  one  of  those  impulses 
was  the  hidden  cause  of  my  unaccountable  conduct  on  this  occasion. 

Whatever  influence  animated  me,  I  found  cause  to  congratulate  myself 
on  having  obeyed  it,  as  soon  as  I  prei)ared  to  seal  the  letter  in  my  own 
room.  I  had  originally  closed  the  envelope,  in  the  usual  way,  by  moisten- 
ing the  adhesive  point  and  pressing  it  on  the  paper  beneath ;  and,  when  J 
now  tried  it  with  my  finger,  after  a  lapse  of  full  three-quarters  of  an  hour, 
the  envelope  opened  on  the  instant,  without  sticking  or  tearing.  Perhaps 
I  had  fastened  it  insufficiently?  Perhaps  there  might  have  been  some 
defect  in  the  adhesive  gum  ? 

Or,  perhaps No !  it  is  quite  revolting  enough  to  feel  that  third  con- 
jecture stirring  in  my  mind.  I  would  rather  not  see  it  confronting  me,  in 
plain  black  and  white. 

I  almost  dread  to-morrow — so  much  depends  on  my  discretion  and 
•elf-control.    There  are  two  precautions  at  all  events,  which  I  am  sure  not 


198  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

Ui  forget  I  must  be  careful  to  keep  tip  friendly  appearances  with  the 
Count ;  and  I  must  be  well  on  my  gnaid,  when  the  messenger  frooi  tlie 
office  comes  here  with  the  answer  to  my  letter. 

V. 

JuNB  17th. — ^When  the  dinner  hour  brought  us  together  ^ain,  Gonnt 
J^'osco  was  in  his  usual  excellent  spirits.    He  exerted  himself  to  interest 
and  amuse  us,  as  if  he  was  determined  io  efface  from  our  memories  all 
recollection  of  what  had  passed  in  the  libraxy'  that  afternoon.     Lively 
descriptions  of  his  adventures  in  tntveUing ;  amusing  anecdotes  of  remark- 
able people  whom  he  had  met  with  abroad ;  quaint  eomparisous  bet^irecn 
the  social  customs  of  various  nations,  illustrated  by  examples  diawn  from 
men  and  women  indiscriminately  all  over  Europe ;  humorous  confessionB 
of  the  innocent  follies  of  his  own  early  life,  when  he  ruled  the  fashions  of  a 
second-rate  Italian  town,  and  wrote  preposterous  romances,  on  the  French 
model,  for  a  second-rate  Italian  newspaper — all  flowed  in  sucoessicMi  so 
easily  and  so  gaily  from  his  lips,  and  all  addressed  our  various  curiosities 
and  various  interests  so  directly  and  so  delicately,  that  Laura  and   I 
listened  to  him  with  as  much  attention,  and,  inconsistent  as  it  may  seem, 
with  as  much  admiration  also,  as  Madame  Fosoo  herself.    Women  can  resist 
a  man's  love,  a  man's  fame,  a  man's  personal  appearance,  and  a  man's  money ; 
but  they  cannot  resist  a  man's  tongue,  when  he  knows  how  to  talk  to  th^n. 

After  dinner,  while  the  favourable  impression  which  he  had  produced  on 
us  was  still  vivid  in  our  minds,  the  Count  modestly  withdrew  to  read  im 
the  library. 

Laura  proposed  a  stroll  in  the  grounds  to  enjoy  the  close  of  the  loag 
evening.  It  was  necessary,  in  common  politeness,  to  ask  Madame  Fosoo 
to  join  us;  but,  this  time,  she  had  appar^tly  received  her  orders  before- 
hand, and  she  begged  we  would  kindly  excuse  her.  "  The  Count  will 
probably  want  a  fresh  supply  of  cigarettes,"  she  remarked,  by  way  of 
apology;  ''and  nobody  can  make  them  to  his  satis&etiany  but  mys^." 
Her  cold  blue  eyes  almost  warmed  as  she  spoke  the  words-Hshe  lobked 
actually  proud  of  being  the  ofSdating  medium  through  which  her  lord  and 
master  composed  himself  with  tobacco-smoke ! 

Laura  and  I  went  out  together  alone. 

It  was  a  misty,  heavy  evening.  There  was  a  seufle  of  blight  in  the  air  * 
the  flowers  were  drooping  in  the  garden,  and  the  grouad  was  pardied  and 
dewless.  The  western  heaven,  as  we  saw  it  over' the  quiet  tiees,  was  of  a 
pale  yellow  hue,  and  the  sun  was  setting  faintly  Sh  a  base.  Ccnning  rain 
seemed  near  :  it  would  fall  probably  with  the  &11  of  oi^t. 

**  Which  way  shall  we  go?"  I  asked. 

"  Towards  the  lake,  Marian,  if  you  like,"  she  answei^. 

"  You  seem  unaccoimtably  fond,  Laura,  of  that  dismal  lake." 


rU£  IVOMAN  IN  WHITE.  199 

''No;  not  of  the  lake,  bat  of  Che  soenory  about  it.  Tbe  sand  and 
heath,  and  the  fir-treee,  are  the  only  objects  I  can  diaoover,  in  all  this  large 
plaoe^  to  remind  me  of  LImmeridge.  Bnt  we  will  walk  in  some  other 
direction,  if  you  prefer  it." 

"  I  have  no  favourite  walks  at  Blackwater  Park,  my  love.  One  is  the 
same  as  another  to  me.  Let  us  go  to  the  lake— *we  may  find  it  cooler  in 
thQ  open  space  than  we  find  it  here." 

We  walked  through  the  shadowy  plantation  in  silence.  The  heaviness 
in  the  evening  air  oppressed  us  both ;  and,  when  we  reached  the  boat- 
house,  we  were  glad  to  sit  down  and  rest,  inside. 

A  white  fog  hung  low  over  the  lake.  The  dense  brown  line  of  the  trees 
on  the  opposito  bonk,  appeared  above  it,  like  a  dwarf  forest  floating  in  the 
sky.  The  sandy  ground,  shelving  downward  from  where  we  sat,  was  lost 
myBteriously  in  the  outward  layers  of  the  fog.  The  silence  was  horrible. 
No  rustiing  of  the  leaves — ^no  bird's  note  in  the  wood — ^no  cry  of  water- 
fowl from  the  pools  of  the  hidden  lake.  Even  the  croaking  of  the  frogs  had 
ceased  to-night. 

**  It  is  very  desolate  and  gloomy,"  said  Laura.  •  **  But  we  can  be  more 
alone  here  than  anywhere  else." 

She  spoke  quietly,  and  looked  at  the  wilderness  of  sand  and  mist  with 
steady,  thoughtful  eyes.  I  could  see  that  her  mind  was  too  much  occu- 
pied to  fed  the  dreary  impressions  from  without,  which  had  fastened  them- 
selves already  on  mine. 

*'I  promised,  Marian,  to  teU  yon  the  truth  about  my  married  life, 
Afitead  of  leaving  you  any  longer  to  guess  it  for  yourself,"  she  began. 
**  That  secret  is  the  first  I  have  ever  had  from  you,  love,  and  I  am  deter- 
mined it  shall  be  the  last.  I  was  silent,  as  you  know,  for  your  sake-- and 
perhaps  a  little  for  my  own  sake  as  well.  It  is  very  hard  for  a  WOTian 
to  coi^ess  that  the  man  to  whom  she  has  given  her  whole  life,  is  the  man 
of  all  others  Who  cares  least  for  the  gift.  If  you  were  married  yourself 
Marian — and  especially  if  you  were  happily  married — ^you  would  feel  for 
Die  as  no  single  woman  can  fe^,  however  kind  and  true  she  may  be." 

What  answer  could  I  make  ?  I  could  only  take  her  hand,  and  look  at 
her  with  my  whole  heart  as  well  as  my  eyes  would  let  me. 

**  How  often,"  she  went  on,  "  I  have  heard  you  laughing  over  what  you 
used  to  call  your  *  poverty  1*  how  often  you  have  made  me  mock-speeches 
of  congratulation  on  my  wealth  1  Oh,  Marian,  never  laugh  again.  Thank 
God  for  your  poverty — ^it  has  made  you  your  own  mistress,  and  has  saved 
yon  from  the  lot  that  has  fallen  on  me," 

A  sad  beginning  on  the  lips  of  a  young  wife  I — ^sad  in  its  quiet,  plain- 
spoken  truth.  The  few  days  we  had  all  passed  together  at  Blackwater 
Park,  had  been  many  enough  to  show  me — to  show  any  one — ^what  hei 
hus^iand  had  manried  her  fon 


900  THE  WOMAN   IN  WBTTK. 

"  You  shall  not  be  distressed,"  she  said,  **  by  hearing  how  soon  my  dis- 
appointments and  my  trials  began— or  even  by  knowing  what  they  were-. 
It  is  bad  enough  to  have  them  on  my  memory.  If  I  tell  you  how  he 
received  the  first,  and  last,  attempt  at  remonstrance  that  I  ever  made,  you 
will  know  how  he  has  always  treated  me,  as  well  as  if  I  had  described  it  itt 
so  many  words.  It  was  one  day  at  Home,  when  we  had  ridden  out 
together  to  the  tomb  of  Cecilia  Metella.  llie  sky  was  calm  and  lovely — 
and  the  grand  old  ruin  looked  beautiful — and  the  remembrance  that  a 
husband's  love  had  raised  it  in  the  old  time  to,  a  wife's  memory,  made  me 
feel  more  tenderly  and  more  anxiously  towards  9713^  husband  than  I  had 
ever  felt  yet.  '  Would  you  build  such  a  tomb  for  me,  Percival  ?*  I  asked 
him.    '  You  said  you  loved  me  dearly,  before  we  were  married ;  and  yet, 

since  that  time '    I  could  get  no  fSeulher.    Marian  I  he  was  not  even 

looking  at  me  I  I  pulled  down  my  veil,  thinking  it  best  not  to  let  him  see 
that  the  tears  w^re  in  my  eyes.  I  fancied  he  had  not  paid  any  attention 
to  me ;  but  he  had.  He  said,  *  Come  away,'  and  laughed  to  himself,  as  he 
helped  me  on  to  my  horse.  He  mounted  his  own  horse ;  and  laughed 
again  as  we  rode  away.  '  If  I  do  build  you  a  tomb,'  he  said, '  it  will  be 
done  with  your  own  money.  I  wonder  whether  Cecilia  Metella  had  a 
fortune,  and  paid  for  hers.'  I  n^e  no  reply — ^how  oould  I,  when  I  was 
crying  behind  my  veil?  'Ah,  you  light-complexioned  women  are  all 
sulky,' he  said.  'What  do  you  want?  compliments  and  soft  speeches? 
Well  I  I'm  in  a  good  humour  this  morning.  Consider  the  compliments 
paid,  and  the  speeches  said.'  Men  little  know,  when  they  say  hard  thiBg^i 
to  us,  how  well  we  remember  them,  and  how  much  harm  they  do  ns.  It 
would  have  been  better  for  me  if  I  had  gone  on  cryiii^ ;  but  his  contempt 
dried  up  my  tears,  and  hardened  my  heart.  From  that  time,  Marian,  I 
never  chseked  myself  again  in  thinking  of  Walter  Hartright.  I  let  the 
memory  of  those  happy  days,  when  we  were  so  fond  of  each  other  in  secret, 
come  back,  and  comfort  me.  What  else  had  I  to  look  to  for  consolation? 
If  we  had  been  together,  you  would  have  helped  me  to  better  things.  J 
know  it  was  wrong,  darling — ^but  tell  me  if  I  was  wrong,  without  any 
excuse." 

I  was  obliged  to  turn  my  face  from  her.  *' Don't  ask  mel"  I  said. 
"  EJAve  I  suffered  as  you  have  suffered  ?    What  right  have  I  to  decide  ?" 

**  1  used  to  think  of  him,"  she  pursued,  dropping  her  voice,  and  moving 
closer  to  me — *'  I  used  to  think  of  him,  when  Percival  left  me  alone  at 
night,  to  go  among  the  Opera  people.  I  used  to  fajK^^  what  I  might  have 
been,  if  it  had  pleased  Gk)d  to  bless  me  with  poverty,  and  if  I  had  been  his 
wife.  I  used  to  see  myself  in  my  neat  cheap  gown,  sitting  at  home  and 
waiting  for  him,  while  he  was  earning  our  bread — sitting  at  home  and 
working  for  him,  and  loving  him  all  the  better  because  I  liad  to  work  fur 
him — seeing  him  come  in  tired,  and  taking  off  his  hat  and  coat  for  him 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WIIITK.  201 

•^  and,  Marian,  pleasing  him  with  little  dishes  at  dinner  that  I  had  leanit 
to  make  for  his  sake. — Oh  I  I  hope  he  is  never  lonely  enough  and  sad 
enough  to  think  of  me,  and  see  mo,  as  I  have  thought  of  him  and  seen 

him  r 

As  she  said  those  melancholy  words,  all  the  lost  tenderness  returned  to 
her  voice,  and  all  the  lost  beauty  trembled  back  into  her  &ce.  Her  eyes 
rested  as  lovingly  on  the  blighted,  solitary,  ill-omened  view  before  us,  as 
if  they  saw  the  friendly  hills  of  Cumberland  in  the  dim  and  threatening 


"  Don't  speak  of  Walter  any  more,"  I  said,  as  soon  as  I  could  control 
myself.  "  Oh,  Laura,  spare  us  both  the  wretchedness  of  talking  of  huu, 
now!" 

She  roused  herself^  and  looked  at  me  tenderly. 

"I  would  rather  be  silent  about  him  for  ever,"  she  answered,  "  than 
cause  you  a  moment's  pain." 

"  It  is  in  your  interests,"  I  pleaded ;  "  it  is  for  your  sake  that  I  speak. 
If  your  husband  heard  you " 

"  It  would  not  surprise  him,  if  he  did  hear  me." 

She  made  that  strange  reply  with  a  weary  calmness  and  coldness. 
The  change  in  her  manner,  when  she  gave  the  answer,  startled  me  almost 
as  much  as  the  answer  itself. 

*'Not  surprise  him  I"  I  repeated.  "Laura!  remember  what  you  are 
saying — ^you  frighten  me  1" 

"It  is  true,"  she  said — ^**it  is  what  I  wanted  to  tell  you  to-day,  when 
we  were  talkmg  in  your  room.  My  only  secret  when  I  opened  my  heart 
to  him  at  Linmieridge,  was  a  harmless  secret,  Marian — ^you  said  so 
youiself.    The  name  was  all  I  kept  from  him — and  he  has  discovered  it." 

I  heard  her ;  but  I  could  say  nothing.  Her  last  words  had  killed  the 
little  hope  that  stiU  lived  in  me. 

'*  It  happened  at  Home,"  she  went  on,  as  wearily  calm  and  cold  as 
ever.  **  We  were  at  a  little  party,  given  to  the  English  by  some  friends  of 
Sir  Percivars — Mr.  and  Mrs.  Markland.  Mrs.  Markland  had  the  reputa- 
tion of  sketching  very  beautifully ;  and  some  of  the  guests  prevailed  on 
her  to  show  us  her  drawings.  We  all  admired  them, — ^but  something  I 
said  attracted  her  attention  particularly  to  me.  *  Surely  you  draw  your- 
seJ?*  she  asked.  *  I  used  to  draw  a  little  once,'  I  answered,  *  but  I  have 
g'.ven  it  up.'  *If  you  have  once  drawn,'  she  said,  *you  may  take  to  it 
again  one  of  these  days  ;  and,  if  you  do,  I  wish  you  would  let  me  recom- 
mend you  a  master.'  I  said  nothing — ^you  know  why,  Marian — and  tried 
to  change  the  conversation.  But  Mrs.  Markland  persisted.  '  I  have  had 
all  sorts  of  teachers,'  she  went  on  ;  *  but  the  best  of  all,  the  most  fntelli- 
gent  and  the  most  attentive  was  a  Mr.  Hartright.  If  you  ever  take  up 
your  drawing  again,^do  try  him  as  a  master.    He  is  a  young  man — *^\odest 


202  THE  WOMAK  IK  WHITE. 

and  gentlemanlike — ^I  am  sure  you  will  like  him.*  Think  of  those  words 
being  spoken  to  me  publicly,  in  the  presence  of  strangers — strangers  who 
had  been  in^ted  to  meet  the  bride  and  bridegroom  1  I  did  all  I  could  to 
control  myself — ^I  said  nothing,  and  looked  down  close  at  the  drawings. 
When  I  v^itured  to  raise  my  head  again,  my  eyes  and  my  husband's  eyes 
met ;  and  I  knew,  by  his  look,  that  my  face  had  betrayed  me.  '  We  will 
see  about  Kr.  Hartright,'  he  said,  looking  a-t  me  all  the  time,  '  when  we 
get  back  to  England.  1  agree  with  you,  Mrs.  Markland — ^I  think  Lady 
Glyde  is  sure  to  like  him.'  He  laid  an  emphasis  on  the  last  words  which 
made  my  cheeks  bum,  and  set  my  heart  beating  as  if  it  would  stifle  me. 
Nothing  more  was  said— -we  came  away  early.  He  was  silent  in  the 
carriage,  driving  back  to  the  hotel.  He  helped  me  out,  and  followed  me 
up-stairs  as  usual.  But  the  moment  we  were  in  the  drawing-room,  he 
locked  the  door,  pushed  me  down  into  a  chair,  and  stood  over  me  with  his 
hands  on  my  (Moulders.  '  Ever  since  that  morning  when  you  made  your 
audacious  confession  to  me  at  Limmeridge,*  he  said,  *  I  have  wanted  to  find 
out  the  man ;  and  I  found  him  in  your  face,  to-night.  Your  drawing- 
master  was  the  man ;  and  his  name  is  Hartright.  Tou  shall  repent  it, 
and  he  ehall  repent  it,  to  the  last  hour  of  your  lives.  Kow  go  to  bed,  and 
dream  of  him,  if  you  like^-with  the  marks  of  my  horsewhip  on  his 
shoulders.'  Whenever  he  is  angry  with  me  now,  he  refers  to  what  I 
acknowledged  to  him  in  your  presence,  with  a  sneer  or  a  threat.  I  have 
no  power  to  prevent  him  from  putting  his  own  horrible  construction  on 
the  confidence  I  placed  in  him.  I  have  no  influence  to  make  him  believe 
me,  or  to  keep  him  silent.  You  looked  surprised,  to-day,  when  you  heard 
him  tell  me  that  I  had  made  a  virtue  of  necessity  in  marrying  him.  You 
will  not  be  surprised  again,  when  you  hear  him  repeat  it,  the  next  time  he 
is  out  of  temper — Oh,  Marian  I  don't  I  don't !  you  hurt  me  !" 

I  had  caught  her  in  my  arms ;  and  the  sting  and  torment  of  my  remorse 
had  closed  them  round  her  like  a  vice.  Yes  1  my  remorse.  The  white 
despair  of  Walter's  face,  when  my  cruel  words  struck  him  to  the  heart  in 
the  summer-house  at  limmeridge,  rose  before  me  in  mute,  unendurable 
reproach.  My  hand  had  pointed  the  way  which  lod  the  man  my  sister 
loved,  step  by  step^  far  from  his  country  and  his  friends.  Between  those 
two  young  hearts  I  had  stood,  to  sunder  them  for  ever,  the  one  from  tb3 
other— and  his  life  and  her  life  lay  wasted  before  me,  alike,  in  witness  cf 
the  deed.    I  had  done  this ;  and  done  it  for  Sir  Peicival  Glydc^ 

For  Sir  Percival  Grlyde. 

I  heard  her  speaking,  and  I  knew  by  the  tone-  of  her  voice  that  she  was 
comforting  me — J,  who  deserved  nothing  but  the  reproach  of  her  silence  ^ 
How  long  it  was  before  I  mastered  the  absorbing  misery  of  my  own 
thoughts,  I  cannot  tell.     1  was  first  conscious  that  she  was  kissing  me ; 


THE  WOMAN   IN    WHITE.  203 

orA  then  my  eyes  seemed  to  wake  on  a  sudden  to  their  seuae  of  outwaitl 
(hiugSy  and  I  Imew  that  I  was  looking  mechanically  straight  before  me  at 
the  prospect  of  the  lake. 

**  It  is  late,"  I  heard  her  whisper.  **  It  will  he  dark  in  the  plantation."  Rho 
shook  my  arm,  and  repeated,  "  Marian !  it  will  he  dark  in  the  plantation." 

"  Give  me  a  minute  longer,"  I  said — *^  a  minute,  to  get  better  in." 

I  was  afraid  to  trust  myself  to  look  at  her  yet ;  and  I  kept  my  eyes  fixed 
on  the  view. 

It  vHu  late.  The  dense  brown  line  of  trees  in  the  sky  hod  faded  in  the 
gathering  darkness,  to  the  faint  resemblance  of  a  long  wreath  of  smoke. 
The  mist  oyer  the  lake  below  had  stealthily  enlarged,  and  advanced  on  us. 
The  silence  was  as  breathless  as  ever — ^but  the  horror  of  it  had  gone,  and 
the  solemn  mystery  of  its  stillness  was  all  that  remained. 

**  We  are  far  from  the  hoose,"  she  whispered.    **  Let  us  go  back." 

She  stopped  suddenly,  and  turned  her  face  &om  me  towards  the  entrance 
of  the  boat-house. 

"Marian!"  she  said,  trembling  violently.  ''Do  you  see  nothing? 
Lookr 

"Where?" 

*  Down  there,  below  us." 

She  pointed.    My  eyes  followed  her  hand ;  and  I  saw  it,  too. 

A  living  figure  was  moving  over  the  waste  of  heath  in  the  distance.  It 
crossed  our  range  of  view  from  the  boat-house,  and  passed  darkly  along  the 
outer  edge  of  the  mist.  It  stopped  fiir  off,  in  front  of  us — ^waited — and 
Passed  on ;  moving  slowly,  with  the  white  cloud  of  mist  behind  it  and 
above  it — slowly,  slowly,  till  it  glided  by  the  edge  of  the  boat-house,  and 
we  saw  it  no  more. 

We  were  both  unnerved  by  what  had  passed  between  us  that  evening. 
Some  minutes  elapsed  before  Laura  would  venture  into  the  plantation,  and 
before  I  could  make  up  my  mind  to  lead  her  back  to  the  house. 

**  Was  it'a  man,  or  a  woman?*'  she  asked,  in  a  whisper,  as  we  moved, 
at  last,  into  the  daik  dampness  of  the  outer  air. 

**  I  am  not  certain." 

"  Which  do  you  think  ?" 

"  It  looked  like  a  woman." 

**  1  was  afraid  it  was  a  man  in  a  long  cloak." 

**  It  may  be  a  man.    In  this  dim  light  it  is  not  possible  to  be  certain." 

"  Wait,  Marian  I  Tm  frightened—I  don't  see  the  path.  Suppose  the 
figure  should  follow  us?" 

*  Not  at  all  likely,  Laura.  There  is  really  nothing  to  be  alarmed  about. 
The  shores  of  the  lake  are  not  far  from  the  village,  and  they  are  free  to  any 
one  to  walk  on,  by  day  or  night;  It  is  only  wonderful  we  have  seen  nc 
Viving  creature  there  before."  * 


204  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITB. 

We  were  now  in  the  plantation.  It  was  very  dark — bO  dark,  that  we 
found  some  difficulty  in  keeping  the  path.  I  gave  Laura  my  arm,  and  wc 
walked  as  fast  as  we  could  on  our  way  back. 

Before  we  were  half  way  through,  she  stopped,  and  forced  me  to  stop 
with  her.     She  was  Ustening. 

"  Hush,"  she  whispered.    **  I  hear  something  behind  us.** 

**  Dead  leaves,"  I  said  to  cheer  her,  **  or  a  twig  blown  off  the  trees." 

'''it  is  summer  time,  Marian;  and  there  is  not  a  breath  of  wind. 
Lieten !" 

I  heard  the  sound,  too — ^a  sound  like  a  light  footstep  following  us. 

**  No  matter  who  it  is,  or  what  it  is,"  I  said ;  ''  let  us  walk  on.  In 
another  minute,  if  there  is  anything  to  alarm  us,  we  shall  be  near  enough 
to  the  house  to  be  heard." 

We  went  on  quickly — so  quickly,  that  Laura  was  breathless  by  the 
time  we  were  nearly  through  the  plantation,  and  within  sight  of  the 
lighted  windows. 

I  waited  a  moment,  to  give  her  breathing-time.  Just  as  we  were  about  to 
proceed,  she  stopped  me  again,  and  signed  to  me  with  her  hand  to  listen 
once  more.  We  both  heard  distinctly  a  long,  heavy  sigh,  behind  us,  in 
the  black  depths  of  the  trees. 

"  Who's  there  ?"  I  called  out. 

There  was  no  answer. 

«  Who's  there  ?"  I  repeated. 

An  instant  of  silence  followed ;  and  then  we  heard  the  light  fall  of  the 
footsteps  again,  fainter  and  fainter — sinking  away  into  the  darkness — 
sinking,  sinking,  sinking — till  they  were  lost  in  the  silence. 

We  hurried  out  from  the  trees  to  the  open  lawn  beyond;  crossed  it 
rapidly ;  and  without  another  word  passing  between  us,  reached  the  house. 

In  the  light  of  the  hall-lamp,  Laura  looked  at  me,  with  white  cheeks 
and  startled  eyes. 

"  I  am  half  dead  with  fear,"  she  said.    **  Who  could  it  have  been  ?" 

"  We  will  try  to  guess  to-morrow,"  I  replied.  **  In  the  mean  time,  say 
nothing  to  any  one  of  what  we  have  heard  and  seen." 

**  Why  not  ?" 

"  Because  silence  is  safe — and  we  have  need  of  safety  in  this  house." 

I  sent  Laura  up  stairs  immediately — waited  a  minute  to  take  off  my 
hat,  and  put  my  hair  smooth — and  then  went  at  once  to  make  my  first 
investigations  in  the  library,  on  pretence  of  searching  for  a  book. 

There  sat  the  Count,  filling  out  the  largest  easy-chair  in  the  house  j 
smoking  and  reading  calmly,  with  his  feet  on  an  ottoman,  his  cravat 
across  his  knees,  and  his  shirt  collar  wide  open.  And  there  sat  Madanio 
Fosco,  like  a  quiet  child,  on  a  stool  by  his  side,  making  cigarettes. 
Neither  husband  nor  wife  could,  by  any  ixwsibility,  have  been  out  late 


the:  woman  in  white.  205 

rbat  evening,  and  have  just  got  back  to  the  house  in  a  hurry.  I  felt  that  my 

object  in  visiting  the  library  was  answered  the  moment  I  set  eyes  on  them. 
Count  F0800  rose  in  polite  confusion,  and  tied  his  cravat  on  when  I 

entered  the  room. 

**  Pray  don't  let  me  disturb  you,"  I  said.  "  I  have  only  come  here  to 
get  a  book.*' 

'*A11  unfortunate  men  of  my  size  suffer  from  the  heat,"  said  the  Count, 
refreshing  himself  gravely  with  a  large  green  fan.  "  I  wish  I  could  change 
places  with  my  excellent  wife.  She  is  as  cool,  at  this  moment,  as  a  fish  in 
the  pond  outside." 

The  Countess  allowed  herself  to  thaw  under  the  influence  of  her 
husband's  quaint  comparison.  "  I.  am  never  warm.  Miss  Haloombe,"  she 
remarked,  with  the  modest  air  of  a  woman  who  was  confessing  to  one  of  her 
own  merits. 

"Have  you  and  Lady  Glyde  been  out  this  evening  ?"  asked  the  Coimt, 
while  I  was  taking  a  book  from  the  shelves,  to  preserve  appearances. 

"Yes ;  we  went  out  to  get  a  little  air." 

"May  I  ask  in  what  direction?" 

"In  the  direction  of  the  lake— as  far  as  the  boat-house." 

**  Aha  ?     As  fiar  as  the  boat-house  ?" 

Under  other  circumstances,  I  might  have  resented  his  curiosity.  But^ 
to-night  I  hailed  it  as  another  proof  that  neither  he  nor  his  wife  were  con- 
nected with  the  mysterious  appearance  at  the  lake. 

**  ^0  more  adventures,  I  suppose,  this  evening  ?"  he  went  on.  **  No  more 
discoveries,  like  your  discovery  of  the  wounded  dog  P' 

He  fixed  his  unfathomable  gray  eyes  on  me,  with  that  cold,  clear,  irre- 
sistiblo  glitter  in  them,  which  always  forces  me  to  look  at  him,  and  always 
makes  me  imeosy,  while  I  do  look.  An  unutterable  suspicion  that  his 
mind  is  prying  into  mine,  overcomes  me  at  these  times ;  and  it  overcame 
me  now. 

"  Ko,"  I  said,  shortly ;  "  no  adventures — no  discoveries." 

I  tried  to  look  away  from  him,  and  leave  the  room.  Strange  as  it  seems, 
I  hardly  think  I  should  have  succeeded  in  the  attempt,  if  Madame  Fosco 
had  not  helped  me  by  causing  him  to  move  and  look  away  first. 

**  Count,  you  are  keeping  Miss  Halcombe  standing,"  she  said. 

The  moment  he  turned  roimd  to  get  me  a  chair,  I  seized  my  opportunity 
—thanked  him — made  my  excuses — and  slipped  out. 

An  hour  later,  when  Laura's  maid  happened  to  be  in  her  mistress's  room, 
I  took  occasion  to  refer  to  the  closeness  of  the  night,  with  a  view  to  ascei- 
Viining  next  how  the  servants  had  been  passing  their  time. 

"  Have  you  been  s:Lffering  much  from  the  heat,  down  stairs  ?"  I  asked. 

"  No,  miss,"  said  the  girl ;  "  we  have  not  felt  it  to  speak  of." 

'•  You  have  been  out  in  the  woods,  then,  I  supix)se  ?" 


206  ^HB  WOMJIN-IN  WHITE. 

**  Some  of  us  thought  of  going,  m]s&  But  cook  said  sho  should  take  hot 
chair  into  the  cool  court-yard,  outoide  the  kitchen  duor ;  and,  on  seocmd 
thoughts,  all  the  rest  of  us  took  our  chairs  out  there,  too." 

The  housekeeper  was  now  the  only  person  who  remained  to  he  aooounted 

for. 
"  Is  Mrs.  Michelson  gone  to  bed  yetf  I  inquired. 

'I  should  think  not,  miss,"  said  the  girl,  smiling.  *^  Mrs.  Mdielaon  is 
more  likely  to  be  getting  up,  just  now,  than  going  to  bed." 

"  Why  ?  What  do  you  mean  ?  Has  Mrs.  Michelson  been  taking  to 
her  bed  in  the  daytime  ?" 

**  No,  miss ;  not  exactly,  but  the  next  thing  to  It.  She's  been  asleep  all 
the  evening,  on  the  sofa  in  her  own  room." 

Putting  together  what  I  observed  for  myself  in  the  library  and  what  I 
have  just  heard  from  Laura's  maid,  one  conclusion  seems  inevitable.  The 
6gure  we  saw  at  the  lake,  was  not  the  figure  of  Madame  Fosoo,  of  her 
husband,  or  of  any  of  the  servants.  The  footsteps  we  heard  behind  us  were 
not  the  footsteps  of  any  one  belonging  to  the  house. 

Who  could  it  have  been  ? 

It  seems  useless  to  inquire.  I  cannot  even  decide  whether  the  ^ttre 
was  a  man's  or  a  woman's.    I  can  only  say  that  I  think  it  was  a  woman's. 

VI. 
June  18th. — ^The  misery  of  self-reproach  which  I  suffered  yesterday  even- 
ing, on  hearing  what  Laura  told  me  in  the  boat-house,  returned  in  the 
loneliness  of  the  night,  and  kept  me  waking  and  wretched  for  hours. 

I  lighted  my  candle  at  last,  and  searched  through  my  old  journals  to  see 
what  my  share  in  the  fatal  error  of  her  marriage  had  r^lly  been,  and  what 
I  might  have  once  done  to  save  her  from  it.  The  result  soothed  me  a  little 
— ^for  it  showed  that,  however  blindly  and  ignorantly  I  acted,  I  acted  for 
the  best.  Crying  generally  does  me  harm ;  but  it  was  not  so  last  night — ^I 
think  it  relieved  me.  I  rose  this  morning  with  a  settled  resolution  and  a 
quiet  mind.  Nothing  Sir  Percival  can  say  or  do  shall  ever  irritate  me 
again,  or  make  me  forget,  for  one  moment,  that  I  am  staging  here,  in 
defiance  of  mortifications,  insults,  and  threats,  for  I^ura's  service  and  for 
Laura's  sake. 

The  speculations  in  which  we  might  have  indulged,  this  morning,  on  the 
subject  of  the  figure  at  the  lake  and  the  footsteps  in  the  plantation,  have 
been  aU  suspended  by  a  trifling  accident  which  has  caused  Laura  gxeat 
regret.  She  has  lost  the  little  brooch  I  gave  her  for  a  keepsake,  on  the  day 
before  her  marriage.  As  she  wore  it  when  we  went  out  yesterday  evening, 
we  can  only  suppose  that  it  must  have  dropped  (rom  her  dress,  either  in  the 
boat-house,  or  on  our  way  back.  The  servants  have  been  sent  to  search, 
and  have  returned  imsuooessful.    And  now  Laura  herself  has  gone  to  IzoV 


THE  WOMAN  IH  WHITE.  207 

U  it.  Whether  she  finds  it,  or  not,  the  loss  will  hrip  to  excuse  her 
afaaeDce  from  the  house,  if  Sir  Percival  letnms  before  the  letter  from  Mr. 
Gilmore's  partner  is  placed  in  my  hands. 

One  o'clock  has  just  struck.  I  am  considering  whether  I  had  better  wait 
here  for  the  arrival  of  the  messenger  from  Londcn,  or  slip  away  qtdetly, 
and  watch  for  him.  outside  the  lodge  gate. 

My  suspicion  of  everybody  and  everything  in  this  house  indines  me  to 
think  that  the  second  plan  may  be  the  best.  The  Count  is  safe  in  the 
breakfast-rocmi.  I  heard  him,  through  the  door,  as  I  ran  up-stairB,  ten 
minntes  since,  exercising  his  canary-birds  at  their  tricks : — **  Gome  out  on 
my  iitde  finger,  my  pret^pret-pretties !  Gome  out,  and  hop  up>8tairB !  One, 
two,  three — and  up!  Three,  two,  one— and  down!  One,  two,  three— 
twit-twit-twit-tweet !"  The  birds  burst  into  their  usual  ecstasy  of  sioging, 
and  the  Gount  chirruped  and  whistled  at  them  in  return,  as  if  he  was  a 
bird  himself.  My  room  door  is  open,  and  I  can  bear  the.  shrill  singing  and 
whistling  at  this  very  moment.  If  I  am  really  to  slip  out,  without  bemg 
observed — ^now  is  my  time. 

Four  o^chck.  The  three  hours  that  have  passed  since  1  made  my  last 
entry,  have  turned  the  whole  march  of  events  at  Blackwater  Park  in  a  new 
direction.     Whether  for  good  or  for  evil,  I  cannot  and  dare  not  decide. 

Let  me  get  back  first  to  the  place  at  which  I  left  o£f-— or  I  shall  lose  my* 
self  in  the  confusion  of  my  own  thoughts. 

I  went  out,  as  I  had  proposed,  to  meet  the  mess^iger  with  my  letter 
from  London,  at  the  lodge  gate.  On  the  stairs  I  saw  no  one.  In  the  hall 
I  heard  the  Gount  still  exercising  his  birds.  But  on  crossing  the  quad- 
rangle outside,  I  passed  Madame  Fosoo,  walking  by  herself  in  her  favourite 
circle,  round  and  round  the  great  fish-pond.  I  at  once  slackened  my  pace, 
80  as  to  avoid  aU  appearance  of  bdng  in  a  hurry ;  and  even  went  the  lengthy 
for  caution's  sake,  of  inquiring  if  she  thought  of  going  out  before  lunch. 
She  smiled  at  me  in  the  friendliest  nuumer-Hsaid  she  preferred  remaining 
near  the  house — ^nodded  pleasantly — and  re-entered  the  halL  I  looked 
back,  and  saw  that  she  had  closed  ^e  door  before  I  had  opened  the  wicket 
by  the  side  of  the  carriage  gates. 

In  less  than  a  quarter  of  an  hour,  I  reached  the  lodge. 

The  lane  outside  took  a  sudden  turn  to  the  left,  ran  on  straight  for  a 
hundred  yards  or  so,  and  then  took  another  sharp  turn  to  the  right  to  join  the 
high  road.  Between  these  two  turns,  hidden  firom  the  lodge  on  one  side  and 
from  the  way  to  the  station  on  the  other,  I  waited,  walking  backwards  and 
forwards.  High  hedges  were  on  either  side  of  me ;  and  for  twenty  minutes, 
by  my  watch,  I  neither  saw  nor  heard  anything.  At  the  end  of  that  time, 
the  sound  of  a  carriage  caught  my  ear ;  and  I  was  met,  as  I  advanced, 
towards  the  second  turning,  by  a  fly  from  the  railway.    I  made  a  sign  t<' 


S()8  THE  lin)MAN  IN  WHITE. 

the  dH?er  to  stop.  As  he  obeyed  me,  a  respectable-lookiiig  man  put  his 
head  oat  of  the  window  to  see  what  was  the  matter. 

**  I  beg  your  pardon,'*  I  said ;  **  but  am  I  right  in  Buppodiig  that  yon  are 
going  to  Blackwater  FarkP' 

«  Yes,  ma'am." 

«  With  a  letter  for  any  one  ?" 

**  With  a  letter  for  Miss  Haloombe,  ma'am.'' 

'*  Tou  may  give  me  the  letter.    I  am  Miss  Halcombe." 

The  man  touched  his  hat^  got  out  of  the  fly  immediately,  and  gave  me 
the  letter. 

I  opened  it  at  once,  and  read  these  lines.  I  copy  them  here,  thinking  it 
best  to  destroy  the  original  for  caution's  sake. 

''Dear  Madam. — ^Your  letter  received  this  morning,  has  caused  me 
very  great  anxiety.    I  will  reply  to  it  as  briefly  and  plainly  as  possible. 

'*  My  careful  consideration  of  the  statement  made  by  yourself,  and  my 
knowledge  of  Lady  Glyde's  position,  as  defined  in  the  settlement,  lead  me,  I 
regret  to  say,  to  the  conclusion  that  a  loan  of  the  trust  money  to  Sir  Per- 
cival  (or,  in  other  words,  a  loan  of  some  portion  of  the  twenty  thousand 
pounds  of  Lady  Glyde's  fortune),  is  in  contemplation,  and  that  she  is  made  a 
party  to  the  deed,  in  order  to  secure  her  approval  of  a  flagrant  breach  of 
trust,  and  to  have  her  signature  produced  against  her,  if  she  should  com- 
plain hereafter.  It  is  impossible,  on  any  other  supposition,  to  account, 
situated  as  she  is,  for  her  execution  to  a  deed  of  any  kind  being  wanted 
at  all. 

"  In  the  event  of  Lady  Glyde's  signing  such  a  document  as  I  am 
compelled  to  suppose  the  deed  in  question  to  lie,  her  trustees  would  be  at 
liberty  to  advance  money  to  Sir  Percivalout  of  her  twenty  thousand  pounds. 
If  the  amount  so  lent  should  not  be  x>aid  back,  and  if  Lady  Glyde  should 
have  children,  their  fortune  will  then  be  diminished  by  the  sum,  large  or 
small,  so  advanced.  In  plainer  terms  still,  the  transaction,  for  anything 
that  Lady  Glyde  knows  to  the  contrary,  may  be  a  fraud  upon  her  unborn 
children. 

**  Under  these  serious  circumstances,  I  would  recommend  Lady  Glyde  to 
assign  as  a  reason  for  withholding  her  signature,  that  she  wishes  the  deed 
to  be  first  submitted  to  myself,  as  her  family  solicitor  (in  the  absence  of 
my  partner,  Mr.  Gilmore).  Ko  reasonable  objection  can  be  made  to  taking 
this  course — for,  if  the  transaction  is  an  honourable  one,  there  will  neces- 
sarily be  no  difficulty  in  my  giving  my  approval. 

"  Sincerely  assuring  you  of  my  readiness  to  afford  any  additional  help  or 
advice  that  may  be  wanted,  I  beg  to  remain.  Madam,  your  fjEuthfal 
8cr^^ult, 

**  William  Ktbls. 


THE  VOVAV  IN  WRITB.  200 

1  read  this  kind  and  senilble  letter  very  thankfully.    It  impplied  Laura 

»ith  a  reason  for  objecting  to  the  signature  which  was  unanswerable,  and 
wiiich  we  could  both  of  us  understand.  The  messenger  waited  near  me 
vhile  I  was  reading,  to  receive  his  directions  when  I  had  done. 

"Will  you  be  good  enough  to  say  that  I  understand  the  letter,  and  that 
1  am  very  much  obliged?**  I  sidd.  '*  There  is  no  other  reply  necessary  at 
present" 

ibmctly  St  the  moment  when  I  was  speaking  those  words,  holding  the 
letter  open  in  my  hand,  Count  Fosco  turned  the  comer  of  the  lane  from  the 
iiigh  road,  and  stood  before  me  as  if  he  had  sprung  up  out  of  the  earth. 

The  suddenness  of  his  appearance,  in  the  very  last  place  under  heaven  in 
which  I  should  have  expected  to  see  him,  took  me  completely  by  surprise . 
The  messenger  wished  me  good  morning,  and  got  into  the  fty  again.  I 
ooald  not  say  a  word  to  him — ^I  was  not  even  able  to  return  his  bow.  The 
conviction  that  I  was  discovered — ^and  by  that  man,  of  all  others — abso- 
lutely petrified  me. 

"  Are  you  going  back  to  the  house.  Miss  HalcombeP^  he  inquired,  with- 
out showing  the  least  surprise  on  his  side,  and  without  even  looking  after 
the  fly,  which  drove  off  while  he  was  speaking  to  me. 

I  collected  myself  sufficiently  to  make  a  sign  in  the  affirmative. 

'^  I  am  going  back,  too,*'  he  said.  *^  Pray  allow  me  the  pleasure  of  accom- 
panying you.  Will  you  take  my  arm?  You  look  surprised  at  seeing 
mer 

I  took  his  arm.  The  first  of  my  scattered  senses  that  came  back,  was  the 
■enae  that  warned  me  to  sacrifice  anything  rather  than  make  an  enemy  of 
him. 

'*  You  look  surprised  at  seeing  me !"  he  repeated,  in  his  quietly  pertina- 
cious way. 

"  I  thought,  Count,  I  heard  you  with  your  birds  in  the  breakfast-room,'* 
1  answered,  as  quietly  and  firmly  as  I  could. 

**  Surely.  But  my  little  feathered  children,  dear  lady,  are  only  too  like 
other  children.  They  have  their  days  of  perversity ;  and  this  morning  was 
one  of  them.  My  wife  came  in,  as  I  was  putting  them  back  in  their  cage 
and  said  she  had  left  you  going  out  alone  far  a  walk.  You  told  her  so,  did 
you  not  T 

"  Certainly." 

**  Well,  Miss  Halcombe,  the  pleasure  of  accompanying  you  was  too  great 
a  temptation  for  me  to  resist.  At  my  age  there  is  no  harm  in  confessing 
so  much  as  that,  is  there?  I  seized  my  hat,  and  set  off  to  offer  myself  as 
your  escort.  Even  so  fat  an  old  man  as  Fosco  is  surely  better  than  no 
escort  at  all  ?  I  took  the  wrong  path — I  came  back,  in  despair — and  here  1 
am,  arrived  (may  I  say  it  ?)  at  the  height  of  my  wishes." 

lie  talked  on,  in  this  oomplimentarv  strain*  with  a  fluency  which  left  me 

p 


aiO  THB  WOMAN  DX  WftlTE. 

AO  exertion  to  make  beyond  the  effort  of  maintaining  my  composuie.  lie 
never  referred  in  the  most  distant  manner  to  what  he  had  seen  in  the  lane, 
or  to  the  letter  which  I  still  had  in  my  hand.  This  ominons  diacietioii 
helped  to  conyince  me  that  he  must  have  surprised,  by  the  most  dishonour^ 
able  means,  the  secret  of  my  application  in  Laura's  interest,  to  the  lawyer ; 
and  that,  having  now  assured  himself  of  the  private  manner  in  which  I  bad 
received  the  answer,  he  had  discovered  enough  to  suit  his  purposes,  and  waa 
only  bent  on  trying  to  qmet  the  suspicions  which  he  knew  he  must  have 
aroused  in  my  mind.  I  was  wise  enough,  under  these  citoumstanoes^  not 
to  attempt  to  deceive  him  by  plausible  explanations — ^and  woman  enough, 
notwithstanding  my  dread  of  him,  to  feel  as  if  my  hand  was  tainted  by 
resting  on  his  arm. 

On  the  drive  in  front  of  the  house  we  met  the  dog-cart  being  taikeai  roond 
to  the  stables.  Sir  Percival  had  just  returned.  He  came  out  to  meet  us  at 
the  house-door.  Whatever  other  results  his  journey  might  have  had,  it 
had  not  ended  in  softening  his  savage  temper. 

^  Oh  I  here  are  two  of  you  come  back,**  he  said,  with  a  lowering  face. 
''  What  is  the  meaning  of  l^e  house  being  deserted  in  this  way  ?  Where  is 
Lady  Glyde  P* 

I  told  him  of  the  loss  of  the  brooch,  and  said  that  Laura  had  gone  into 
the  plantation  to  look  for  it. 

"Brooch  or  no  brooch,"  he  growled,  sulkily,  " I  recommend  her  net  to 
forget  her  appointment  in  the  library,  this  afternoon.  I  shall  expect  to  see 
her  in  half  an  hour." 

I  took  my  hand  from  the  Count's  arm,  and  slowly  asooided  the  steps. 
He  honoureKd  me  with  one  of  his  magnifiocnt  bows ;  and  then  addressed 
himself  gaily  to  the  scowling  master  of  the  house. 

"  Tell  me,  Percival,"  he  said,  *'  have  you  had  a  pleasant  drive  ?  And  has 
your  pretty  shining  Brown  Molly  come  back  at  all  tired  ?" 

"  Brown  Molly  be  hanged — and  the  drive,  too  I    I  want  my  lunch." 

**  And  I  want  five  minutes*  talk  with  you,  Percival,  first,**  returned  the 
Count.    **  Five  minutes*  talk,  my  friend,  here  on  the  grass.** 

"What  about?** 

*' About  business  that  very  much  concerns  you.** 

I  lingered  long  enough,  in  passing  through  the  hall-door,  to  hear  this 
question  and  answer,  and  to  see  Sir  Percival  thrust  his  hands  into  his 
pockets,  in  sullen  hesitation. 

**  If  you  want  to  badger  me  with  any  more  of  your  infernal  Bcraples,** 
he  s&id,  "  I,  for  one,  won*t  hear  them.    I  want  my  lunch !" 

**  Come  out  here,  and  speak  to  me,"  repeated  the  Count,  still  perfectly 
uninfluenced  by  the  rudest  speech  that  his  friend  could  make  to  him. 

Sir  Percival  descended  the  steps.  The  Count  took  him  by  the  arm,  and 
walked  him  away  gently.     The  "business,"  I  was  sure,  refened  to  tiie 


THE  WOMAir  m   WHITE.  211 

qncBtion  of  the  wgnature.  They  were  speaking  of  Laura  and  of  me,  heyond 
a  donht  I  felt  heart-sick  and  faint  with  anxiety.  It  might  be  of  the  last 
importance  to  both  of  us  to  know  what  they  were  saying  to  each  other  at  that 
moment— and  not  one  word  of  it  conld,  by  any  possibility,  reach  my  ears. 
I  walked  about  the  house,  from,  room  to  room,  with  the  lawyer's  letter  in 
my  bosom  (I  was  afraid,  by  this  time,  even  to  trust  it  under  lock  and  key), 
till  the  oppresaion  of  my  suspense  half  maddened  me.  There  were  no  signs 
of  Laura's  return ;  and  I  thought  of  going  out  to  look  for  her.  But  my 
strength  was  so  exhausted  by  the  trials  and  anxieties  of  the  morning,  that 
the  heat  of  the  day  quite  overpowered  me ;  and,  after  an  attempt  to  get  to 
the  door,  I  was  obliged  to  return  to  the  drawing-room,  and  lie  down  on  the 
nearest  so£a  to  recover. 

I  was  just  composing  myself,  when  the  door  opened  softly,  and  the  Count 
looked  in. 

''A  thousand  pardons.  Miss  Halcombe,"  he  said;  "I  only  venture  to 
diaturb  you  because  I  am  the  bearer  of  good  news.  Percival — who  is  capri- 
cious in  everything,  as  you  know — ^has  seen  fit  to  alter  his  mind,  at  the 
last  moment ;  and  the  business  of  the  signature  is  put  off  for  the  present. 
A  great  relief  to  all  of  us.  Miss  Halcombe,  as  I  see  with  pleasure  in  your 
fiwe.  Pray  present  my  best  respects  and  felicitations,  when  you  mention 
this  pleasant  change  of  circumstances  to  Lady  Glyde." 

He  left  me  before  I  had  recovered  my  astonishment.  There  could  be  no 
doubt  that  this  extraordinary  alteration  of  purpose  in  the  matter  of  the 
Bignature,  was  due  to  his  influence ;  and  that  his  discovery  of  my  applica- 
tion to  London  yesterday,  and  of  my  having  received  an  answer  to  it  to-day, 
had  offered  him  the  means  of  interfering  with  certain  success. 

I  felt  these  impressions ;  but  my  mind  seemed  to  share  the  exhaustion  oi 
my  body,  and  I  was  in  no  condition  to  dwell  on  them,  with  any  useful 
reference  to  the  doubtful  present,  or  the  threatening  future.  I  tried  a 
second  time  to  run  out,  and  find  Laura ;  but  my  head  was  giddy,  and  my 
knees  trembled  under  me.  There  was  no  choice  but  to  give  it  up  again, 
and  return  to  the  sofa,  sorely  against  my  will. 

The  quiet  in  the  house,  and  the  low  murmuring  hum  of  summer  insects 
outside  the  open  window,  soothed  me.  My  eyes  closed  of  themselves ;  and 
I  passed  gradually  into  a  strange  condition,  which  was  not  waking — for  I 
knew  nothing  of  what  was  going  on  about  me ;  and  not  sleeping — ^for  I  was 
conscious  of  my  ovm  repose.  Li  this  state,  my  fevered  mind  broke  loose, 
fnm  me,  while  my  weary  body  was  at  rest ;  and,  in  a  trance,  or  day- 
dream of  my  fancy — ^I  know  not  what  to  call  it— I  saw  Walter  Hartright.  I 
had  not  thought  of  him,  since  I  rose  that  morning ;  Laura  had  not  said  one 
word  to  me  either  directly  or  indirectly  referring  to  him — and  yet,  I  saw 
him  pow,  as  plainly  as  if  the  past  time  had  returned,  and  we  were  both 
together  again  at  Lknmeridge  House. 


212  THE  WOMAK  IN  WHITK. 

He  appeared  to  me  as  one  among  many  other  men,  none  of  whose  facea  I 
cx)uld  plainly  discern.  They  were  aU  lying  on  the  steps  of  an  immense 
mined  temple.  Colossal  tropical  trees— with  rank  creepers  twmmg  end- 
lessly about  theb  trunks,  and  hideous  stone  idols  glimmering  and  grinmng 
at  intervals  behind  leaves  and  stalks  and  branches— surrounded  the  templ^ 
and  shut  out  the  sky,  and  threw  a  dismal  shadow  over  the  forlorn  band  of 
men  on  the  steps.  White  exhalations  twisted  and  curled  up  stealthily 
from  the  ground ;  approached  the  men  in  wreaths,  like  smoke ;  touched 
them ;  and  stretched  them  out  dead,  one  by  one,  in  the  places  where  they 
lay.  An  agony  of  pity  and  fear  for  Walter  loosened  my  tongue,  and  I 
implored  him  to  escape.  "  Ck)me  back  I  come  back  1"  I  said.  "  Remember 
your  promise  to  ^r  and  to  me.  Come  back  to  us,  before  the  Pestilence 
reaches  you,  and  lays  you  dead  like  the  rest  1" 

He  looked  at  me,  with  an  unearthly  quiet  in  his  face.  "  Wait,"  he  said. 
« I  shall  come  back.  The  night,  when  I  met  the  lost  Woman  on  the  high- 
way, was  the  night  which  set  my  life  apart  to  be  the  instrument  of  a 
Design  that  is  yet  unseen.  Here,  lost  in  the  wilderness,  or  there,  welcomed 
back  in  the  land  of  my  birth,  I  am  still  walking  on  the  dark  road  which 
leads  me,  and  you,  and  the  sister  of  your  love  and  mine,  to  the  unknown 
Retribution  and  the  inevitable  End.  Wait  and  look.  The  Pestilence 
which  touches  the  rest,  will  pass  wie." 

I  saw  him  again.  He  was  still  in  the  forest ;  and  the  numbers  of  his 
lost  companions  had  dwindled  to  very  few.  The  temple  was  gone,  and  the 
idols  were  gone — ^and,  in  their  place,  the  figures  of  dark,  dwarfish  men 
lurked  murderously  among  the  trees,  with  bows  in  their  hands,  and  arrows 
fitted  to  the  string.  Once  more,  I  feared  for  Walter,  and  cried  out  to  warn 
him.  Once  more,  he  turned  to  me,  with  the  immovable  quiet  in  his  face. 
•*  Another  step,"  he  said,  **  on  the  dark  road.  Wait  and  look.  The  arrows 
that  strike  the  rest,  will  spare  me." 

I  saw  him  for  the  third  time,  in  a  wrecked  ship,  stranded  on  a  wild, 
sandy  shore.  The  overloaded  boats  were  making  away  from  him  for  the 
land,  and  he  alone  was  left,  to  sink  with  the  ship.  I  cried  to  him  to  hail 
the  hindmost  boat,  and  to  make  a  last  effort  for  his  life.  The  quiet  face 
looked  at  me  in  return,  and  the  unmoved  voice  gave  me  back  the  changeless 
reply.  **  Another  step  on  the  journey.  Wait  and  look.  The  Sea  wbich 
drowns  the  rest,  will  spare  wc." 

I  saw  him  for  the  last  time.  He  was  kneeling  by  a  tomb  of  white 
marble ;  and  the  shadow  of  a  veiled  woman  rose  out  of  the  grave  beneath, 
and  waited  by  his  side.  The  unearthly  quiet  of  his  face  had  changed  to  an 
unearthly  sorrow.  But  the  terrible  certainty  of  his  words  remained  tlie 
same.  **  Darker  and  darker,"  he  said ;  "  farther  and  farther  yet.  Death 
takes  the  good,  the  beautiful,  and  the  yoimg — ard  spares  me,  Tlie  Pesti- 
lence that  wastes,  the  Arrow  that  strikes,  the  Sea  that  drowns,  the  Grave 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITB.  213 

that  closes  over  Love  and  Hope,  are  steps  of  my  journey,  and  take  me 
nearer  and  nearer  to  the  End." 

tfy  heart  sank  under  a  dread  beyond  words,  under  a  grief  beyond  tears. 
The  darkness  closed  round  the  pilgrim  at  the  marble  tomb ;  closed  round 
the  veiled  woman  from  the  graye ;  closed  round  the  dreamer  who  looked 
on  them.    I  saw  and  heard  no  more. 

I  was  aroused  by  a  hand  laid  on  my  shoulder.    It  was  Laura's. 

She  had  dropped  on  her  knees  by  the  side  of  the  sofa.  Her  face  wab 
flushed  and  agitated ;  and  her  eyes  met  mine  in  a  wild  bewildered  manner. 
I  started  the  instant  I  saw  her. 

**  What  has  happened?^  I  asked.    "What  has  frightened  you?" 

She  looked  round  at  the  half-open  door — ^put  her  lips  close  to  my  ear — 
and  answered  in  a  whisper : 

"Marian! — ^the  figure  at  the  lake — the  footsteps  last  night — I've  just 
seen  her !    Pve  just  spoken  to  her  I" 

"Who,  for  Heaven's  sake?" 

"AnneCatherick." 

I  was  so  startled  by  the  disturbance  in  Laura's  face  and  manner,  and  so 
dismayed  by  the  first  waking  impressions  of  my  dream,  that  I  was  not  fit 
to  bear  the  revelation  which  burst  upon  me,  when  that  name  passed  her 
lips.  I  could  only  stand  rooted  to  the  fioor,  looking  at  her  in  breathless 
silence. 

She  was  too  much  absorbed  by  what  had  happened  to  notice  the  effect 
which  ber  reply  had  produced  on  me.  **  I  have  seen  Anne  Catherick  I  I 
have  spoken  to  Anne  Catherick  l"  she  repeated,  as  if  I  had  not  heard  her. 
**  Oh,  Marian,  I  have  such  things  to  tell  you !  Gome  away — ^we  may  be 
interrupted  here — come  at  once  into  my  room." 

With  those  eager  words,  she  caught  me  by  the  hand,  and  led  me  through 
the  library,  to  the  end  room  on  the  groimd  floor,  which  had  been  fitted  up 
for  her  own  especial  use.  No  third  person,  except  her  maid,  could  have  any 
excuse  for  surprising  us  here.  She  pushed  me  in  before  her,  locked  the 
door,  and  drew  the  chintz  curtains  that  hung  over  the  inside. 

The  strange,  stunned  feeling  which  had  taken  possession  of  me  still 
remained.  But  a  growing  conviction  that  the  complications  which  had 
long  threatened  to  gather  about  her,  and  to  gather  about  me,  had  suddenly 
closed  fast  round  us  both,  was  now  beginning  to  penetrate  my  mind.  I 
'joxM  not  express  it  in  words — ^I  could  hardly  even  realise  it  dimly  in  my 
own  thoughts.  "  Anne  Catherick  l"  I  whispered  to  myself;  with  useless, 
helpless  reiteration — **  Anne  Catherick  1" 

Lauia  drew  me  to  the  nearest  seat,  an  ottoman  in  the  middle  of  the 
room.    «  Look !"  she  said ;  "  look  here  I"— and  pointed  to  the  bosom  of  her 

dress. 
I  saw,  for  the  first  time,  that  the  lost  brooch  was  pinned  in  its  place 


iJ14  THE  WOMAN  IW  WHITE. 

again,  lliere  was  sometbijig  real  in  the  sight  of  it^  something  real  m  11*6 
touching  of  it  afterwards,  which  seemed  to  steady  tiie  whirl  and  oonftugou 
iu  my  thoughts,  and  to  help  me  to  compose  myself. 

"  Where  did  you  find  your  brooch?**  The  first  words  I  oould  aay  to 
her  were  the  words  which  put  that  trivial  question  at  that  ixnxx>rtaiit 
moment. 

"  She  found  it,  Marian." 

«  Where  r 

"  On  the  floor  of.  the  boat-house.  Oh,  how  shall  I  begm— how  shall  I 
tell  you  about  it !  She  talked  to  me  so  strangely— she  looked  so  fearfdlly 
ill — she  left  me  so  suddenly T 

Her  voice  rose  as  the  tumult  of  her  reqollections  pressed  upon  ber  mind. 
The  inveterate  distrust  which  weighs,  night  and  day,  on  my  spirits  in  thia 
house,  instantly  roused  me  to  warn  her — just  as  the  sight  of  the  broocli  liaa 
roused  me  to  question  her,  the  moment  before. 

**  Speak  low,"  I  said.  "  The  window  is  open,  and  the  garden  path  rtms 
beneath  it.  Begin  at  the  beginning,  Laura.  Tell  me,  word  for  wordy  what 
passed  between  that  womaix  and  you." 

"  Shall  I  close  the  window  first?" 

"  No ;  only  speak  low :  only  remember  that  Anne  Oatherick  is  a 
dangerous  subject  under  your  husband's  roof.  Where  did  yoa  first,  see 
her?" 

'*  At  the  boat-house,  Marian.  I  went  out,  as  you  know,  to  find  my 
brooch ;  and  I  walked  along  the  path  through  the  plantatioii,  looking  down 
on  the  ground  carefully  at  every  step.  In  that  way  I  got  on,  after  a  long 
time,  to  the  boat-house ;  and,  as  soon  as  I  was  inside  it,  I  went  on  my 
knees  to  hunt  over  the  floor.  I  was  still  searching,  with  my  back  to  the 
doorway,  when  I  heard  a  soft^  strange  voice,  behind  me,  say,  ^  Miss 
Fairlie.' " 

«  Miss  FairUe  I" 

'*  Yes — ^my  old  name — the  dear,  fitmiliar  name  that  I  thon^t  I  had 
parted  from  fqr  ever.  I  started  up~~not  frightened,  the  voice  was  too  kind 
and  gentle  to  frighten  anybody^but  very  much  surprised.  There,  looking 
at  me  from  the  doorway,  stood  a  woman,  whose  face  I  never  remembered  to 
have  seen  before  v    ■*' 

"How  was  she  dressed?" 

''  She  had  a  neat,  pretty  white  gown  on,  and  over  it  a  poor  worn  tiiin 
dark  shawL  Her  bonnet  was  of  brown  straw,  as  poor  and  worn  as  ^e 
shawl.  I  was  struck  by  the  difference  between  her  gown  and  the  rest  of 
her  dress,  and  she  saw  that  I  noticed  it.  '  Don't  look  at  my  b(»met  and 
shawl,'  she  said,  speaking  in  a  quick,  breathless,  sudden  way ;  *  if  I  mustn't 
wear  white,  I  don't  care  what  I  wear.  Look  at  my  gown,  as  much  as  ycra 
please ;  I'm  not  ashamed  of  that.'    Very  strange,  was  it  not?    Belora  1 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  215 

(lOQld  say  anything  to  sooihe  her,  she  held  out  one  of  her  handi^  and  1  aaw 

my  brooch  in  it.  I  was  so  pleased  and  so  grateful,  that  I  went  quite  close 
to  her  to  say  what  I  really  felt.  '  Are  you  thankful  enoagh  to  do  me  one 
littb  kindness  ?'  she  asked.  '  Tes,  indeed,'  I  answered ;  'any  kindness  in 
my  power  I  shall  be  glad  to  show  you.'  '  Then  let  me  pin  your  brooch  on 
for  you,  now  I  have  found  it.'  Her  request  was  so  unexpected,  Marian, 
and  she  made  it  with  such  extraordinary  eagerness,  that  I  drew  back- a 
step  or  two,  not  well  knowing  what  to  do.  'Ah  1'  she  said,  *  your  mother 
would  hare  let  me  pin  on  the  broodu'  There  was  something  in  her  voice 
and  her  look,  as  well  as  in  her  mentioning  my  mother  in  that  reproachful 
manner,  which  made  me  ashamed  of  my  distrust.  I  took  her  hand  with 
ibe  brooch  in  it,  and  put  it  up  gently  on  the  bosom  of  my  dress.  '  Yon 
knew  my  mother  ?'  I  said.  '  Was  it  very  long  ago  ?  have  I  ever  seen  you 
before?*  Her  hands  were  busy  fastening  the  brooch:  she  stopped  and 
pressed  them  against  my  breast.  *  You  don't  remember  a  fine  spring  day 
at  Limmeridge,'  she  said,  *  and  your  nK)ther  walking  down  the  path  that 
led  to  the  school,  with  a  little  girl  on  each  side  of  her?  I  have  had  nothing 
else  to  think  of  since ;  and  /  remember  it.  You  were  one  of  the  little 
girls,  and  I  was  the  other.  Pretty,  clever  Miss  Fairlie,  and  poor  dazed 
Anne  Gatherick  were  nearer  to  each  other,  then,  than  they  are  now !' " 

"Did  you  remember  her,  Laura,  when  she  told  you  her  name  ?" 

"Yea — ^I  remembered  your  asking  me  about  Anne  Gatherick  at  Lim- 
loeiidge,  and  your  saying  that  she  had  once  been  considered  like  me." 

"  What  reminded  you  of  that  Laura  ?" 

**  She  reminded  me.  While  I  was  looking  at  her,  while  she  was  very 
close  to  me,  it  came  over  my  mind  suddenly  that  we  were  like  each  other ! 
Her  face  was  pale  and  thin  and  weary — ^but  the  sight  of  it  startled  me,  as 
if  it  had  been  the  sight  of  my  own  face  in  the  glass  after  a  long  iUness. 
Tbe  discovery — I  don't  know  why — gave  me  such  a  shock,  that  I  was  per- 
fectly incapable  of  speaking  to  her,  for  the  moment." 

"Did  she  seem  hurt  by  your  silence?" 

*  I  am  afraid  she  was  hurt  by  it.  *  You  hav^  not  got  your  mother's  face,' 
she  said, '  or  your  mother's  heart.  Your  mother^s  &ce  was  dark ;  and  your 
mother's  heart,  Miss  Fairlie,  was  the  heart  of  an  angel.'  '  I  am  sure  I  feel 
kindly  towards  you,'  I  said,  *  though  I  may  not  be  able  to  express  it  as  I 

ought.    Why  do  you  call  me  Miss  Fairlie ?'    *  Because  I  love  the 

name  of  Fairlie  and  hate  the  name  of  Glyde,'  she  broke  out  violently.  I 
had  seen  nothing  like  madness  in  her  before  this ;  but  I  fancied  I  saw  it 
now  in  her  eyes.  *  I  only  thor^ht  you  might  not  know  I  was  married,'  I 
said,  remembering  the  wild  letter  she  wrote  to  me  at  Linmieridge,  and  try- 
ing to  quiet  her.  She  sighed  bitterly,  and  turned  away  from  me.  *  Not 
know  you  were  mitrried  1'  ehe  repeated.  *  I  am  here  because  you  are 
ttiarried.    I  am  here  to  make  atonement  to  you,  before  T  meet  your  mothei 


21ft  TKB  WOMAN  W  WHITF. 

in  the  world  beyond  tiho  grave.'  She  drew  ferthcr  and  farther  away  from 
me,  till  she  was  out  of  the  bolit-honse — and,  then,  she  watched  and  list- 
ened for  a  little  while.  When  she  turned  round  to  speak  again,  instead  of 
coming  back,  she  stopped  where  she  was,  looking  in  at  mc,  with  a  hand  on 
each  side  of  the  entrance.  '  Did  you  see  me  at  the  lake  last  uight  ?*  she 
said.  *  Did  you  hear  me  following  you  in  the  wood  ?  I  have  been  waiting 
for  days  together  to  speak  to  you  alone — ^I  have  left  the  only  friend  I  have 
in  the  world,  anxious  and  frightened  about  me — ^I  have  risked  being  shut 
up  again  in  the  madhouse — and  all  for  your  sake,  Miss  Fairlie,  all  for  your 
sake.'  Her  words  alarmed  me,  Marian ;  and  yet,  there  was  something  in 
the  way  she  spoke,  that  made  me  pity  her  with  all  my  heart.  I  am  sure 
my  pity  must  have  been  sincere,  for  it  made  me  bold  enough  to  ask  the 
poor  creature  to  come  in,  and  sit  down  in  the  boat-house,  by  my  side." 

« Did  she  do  so?'* 

**  No.  She  shook  her  head,  and  told  me  she  must  stop  where  she  was, 
to  watch  and  listen,  and  see  that  no  third  person  surprised  us.  And  from 
first  to  last,  there  she  waited  at  the  entrance,  with  a  hand  on  each  side  of 
it ;  sometimes  bending  in  suddenly  to  speak  to  me ;  sometimes  drawing 
back  suddenly  to  look  about  her.  *  I  was  here  yesterday,'  she  said, '  before 
it  came  dark  ;  and  I  heard  you,  and  the  lady  with  you,  talking  together. 
I  heard  you  tell  her  about  your  husband.  I  heard  you  say  you  had  no 
influence  to  make  him  believe  you,  and  no  influence  to  keep  him  silent. 
Ah !  I  knew  what  those  words  meant ;  my  conscience  told  me  while  I  was 
listening.    Why  did  I  ever  let  you  marry  him  I    Oh,  my  fear — my  inad« 

miserable,  wicked  fear ! '    She  covered  up  her  fiice  in  her  poor  worn 

shawl,  and  moaned  and  murmured  to  herself  behind  it.  I  began  to  be 
afraid  she  might  break  out  into  some  terrible  despair  which  neither  she  nor 
I  could  master.  *  Try  to  quiet  yourself,'  I  said :  *  try  to  tell  me  how  you 
might  have  prevented  my  marriage.'  She  took  the  shawl  from  her  ^ice, 
and  looked  at  me  vacantly.  '  I  ought  to  have  had  heart  enough  to  stop  at 
Limmeridge,'  she  answered.  '  I  ought  never  to  have  let  the  news  of  his 
coming  there  frighten  me  away.  I  ought  to  have  warned  you  and  saved 
you  before  it  was  too  late.  Why  did  I  only  have  courage  enough  to  write 
you  that  letter  ?  Why  did  I  only  do  harm,  when  I  wanted  and  meant  to 
do  good  ?  Oh,  my  fear — ^my  mad,  miserable,  wicked  fear  I'  She  repeated 
those  words  again,  and  hid  her  face  again  in  the  end  of  her  poor  worn  shawl. 
It  was  dreadful  to  see  her,  and  dreadful  to  hear  her." 

**  Surely,  Laura,  you  asked  what  the  fear  was  which  she  dwelt  on  so 
earnestly?" 

**  Yes  ;  I  asked  that." 

"  And  what  did  she  say  ?" 

"  She  asked  me,  in  return,  if  I  should  not  be  afraid  of  a  man  who  had 
shut  me  up  in  a  madhouse,  and  who  would  shut  me  up  again,  if  he  could  f 


THE  WOMAN  IK  WHITE.  21'| 

1  said, '  Are  you  afraid  still  ?  Sorely  you  would  not  be  here,  if  you  were 
afraid  now  ?"  '  No,'  she  said, '  I  am  not  afraid  now/  I  asked  why  not. 
She  saddenly  bent  forward  into  the  boat-house,  and  said, '  Can't  you  guess 
why?*  I  shook  my  head.  '  Look  at  me,'  she  went  on.  I  told  her  I  was 
griered  to  see  that  she  looked  very  sorrowful  and  very  ill.  8he  smiled,  for 
the  first  time.  *  111  ?"  she  repeated ;  *  I'm  dying.  You  know  why  I'm  not 
afraid  of  him  now.  Do  you  think  I  shall  meet  your  mother  in  heaven  ? 
Will  she  foi^ve  me,  if  I  do  P  I  was  so  shocked  and  so  startled,  that  I 
could  make  no  reply.  *  I  have  been  thinking  of  it,'  she  went  on,  *  all  the 
time  I  have  been  in  hiding  from  your  husband,  all  the  time  I  lay  ill.  My 
Noughts  have  driven  me  hero— I  want  to  make  atonement — ^I  want  to 
Undo  all  I  can  of  the  harm  I  onoe  did.  I  begged  her  as  earnestly  as  1 
could  to  tell  me  what  she  meant.  8he  still  looked  at  me  with  fixed, 
vacant  eyes.  *ShaU  I  undo  the  harm?' she  said  to  herself^  doubtfully. 
'  Yon  have  friends  to  take  your  part  If  you  know  his  Secret,  he  will  be 
a&aid  of  you ;  he  won't  dare  use  you  as  he  used  me.  He  must  treat  you 
mercifully  for  his  own  sake,  if  he  is  afraid  of  you  and  your  friends.    And 

if  he  treats  you  mercifully,  and  if  I  can  say  it  was  my  doing '    I 

listened  eagerly  for  more ;  but  she  stopped  at  those  wotds." 

"You  tried  to  make  her  go  on?" 

*'  I  tried ;  but  she  only  drew  herself  away  from  me  again,  and  leaned  her 
face  and  arms  against  the  side  of  the  boat-house.  '  Oh !'  I  heard  her  say, 
with  a  dreadful,  distracted  tenderness  in  her  voice, '  oh !  if  I  could  only  be 
buried  with  >our  mothei !  If  I  could  only  wake  at  her  side,  when  the 
angel's  trumpet  sounds,  and  the  graves  give  up  their  dead  at  the  resurrec* 
tion !' — ^Marian  I  I  trembled  from  head  to  foot — it  was  horrible  to  hear 
her.  *  But  there  is  no  hope  of  that,'  she  said,  moving  a  little,  so  as  to 
look  at  me  again  ;  '  no  hope  for  a  poor  stranger  like  me.  I  shall  not  rest 
under  the  marble  cross  that  I  washed  with  my  own  hands,  and  made  so 
white  and  pure  for  her  sake.  Oh  no  I  oh  no !  God's  mercy,  not  man's,  will 
take  me  to  her,  where  the  wicked  cease  from  troubling  and  the  weary  are 
at  rest.'  She  spoke  those  words  quietly  and  sorrowfully,  with  a  heavy, 
hopeless  sigh;  and  then  waited  a  little.  Her  face  was  confused  and 
troubled ;  she  seemed  to  be  thinking,  or  trying  to  think,  *  What  was  it  I 
said  just  now  ?'  she  asked,  after  a  while.  *  When  your  mother  is  in  my 
mind,  everything  else  goes  out  of  it.  What  was  I  saying  ?  what  was  I 
saying?'  I  reminded  the  poor  creature,  as  kindly  and  delicately  as  I 
could.  *  Ah,  yes,  yes,'  she  said,  still  in  a  vacant,  perplexed  manner.  *  You 
are  helpless  with  your  wicked  husband.  Yes.  And  I  must  do  what  I 
have  come  to  do  here — I  must  make  it  up  to  you  for  having  been  afraid  to 
apeak  out  at  a  better  time.'  *  What  is  it  you  have  to  tell  me  ?'  I  asked. 
The  Secret  that  your  cruel  husband  is  afraid  of,'  she  answered.  *  I  once 
kbreatened  him  with  the  Secret,  atji  frightened  him.    You  shall  threaten 


2211J  THE  WOyAN  IN  WIUTE, 

hkn  with  the  Secret,  and  frighten  him»  too.'  Her  face  darkened  ;  and  s 
hard,  angry  stare  fiied  itself  in  her  eyes.  She  began  waving  her  hand  at 
me  in  a  vacant,  unmeaning  manner.  *  My  mother  knows  the  Secset,'  she 
said.  '  My  mother  has  wasted  tmder  the  Secret  half  her  lifetime.  One 
day,  when  I  was  grown  up,  she  said  something  to  me.  And,  the  next  day, 
your  husband—* "  . 

"  Yes  1  yes !    Go  on.    Wliat  did  she  tell  you  abwit  your  husband  ?" 

"  She  stopped  again,  Marian,  at  that  point- — " 

**  And  said  no  more  P* 

**  And  listened  eagerly.  *  Hush  V  she  whispered,  still  waving  her  hand 
at  me.  '  Hush  V  She  moved  aside  out  of  the  doorway,  moved  slowly  and 
stealthily,  step  by  step,  till  I  lost  her  past  the  edge  of  the  boathouse." 

"  Surely,  you  followed  her  ?" 

*'  Yes ;  my  anxiety  made  me  bold  enough  to  rise  and  follow  her.  Just 
as  I  reached  the  entrance,  she  api^eared  again,  suddenly,  round  the  side  of 
the  boathouse.  '  The  secret,'  I  whispered  to  her^-'  wait  and  tell  me  the 
secret  1'  She  caught  hold  of  my  arm,  and  looked  at  me,  with  wild, 
frightened  eyes.  *  Not  now,'  she  said ;  *  we  are  not  alone — ^we  are  watched. 
Come  here  to-morrow,  at  this  time — by  yourself— mind — ^by  yourself.' 
She  pushed  me  roughly  into  the  boat-house  again ;  and  I  saw  her  no 
more." 

*'  Oh,  Laura,  Laura,  another  chance  lost  I  If  I  had  only  been  near  yon, 
she  should  not  have  escaped  us.  On  which  side  did  you  lose  sight  of 
her?" 

"  On  the  left  side,  where  the  ground  sinks  and  the  wood  is  thickest." 

"  Did  you  run  out  again?  did  you  call  after  her?" 

**  How  could  I  ?  I  was  too  terrified  to  move  or  speak." 

"  But  when  you  did  move— when  you  came  ouih ?" 

**  I  ran  back  here,  to  tell  you  what  had  happened." 

"  Did  you  see  any  one,  or  hear  any  one  in  the  plantation  ?" 

"  No— it  seemed  to  be  all  still  and  quiet,  when  I  passed  through  it." 

I  waited  for  a  moment  to  consider.  Was  this  third  person,  supposed  te 
have  been  secretly  present  at  the  interview,  a  reality,  or  the  creature  of 
Anne  Catherick's  excited  fancy  ?  It  was  impossible  to  determine.  The 
one  thing  certain  was,  that  we  had  failed  again  on  the  very  brink  of  dis- 
covery— failed  utterly  and  irretrievably,  imless  Anne  Catherick  kept  her 
appointment  at  the  boat-house,  for  the  next  day. 

"  Are  you  quite  sure  you  have  told  me  everything  that  passed  ?  Every 
word  that  was  said  ?"  I  inquired. 

"  I  think  so,"  she  answered.  "  My  powers  of  memory,  Marian,  are  not 
like  yours.  But  I  was  so  strongly  impressed,  so  deeply  interested,  that 
nothing  of  any  importance  can  possibly  have  escaped  me." 

"  My  dear  Laura,  the  merest  trifles  are  of  importance  where  Anne  Cathe- 


TH£  WOMAH  IN    WUITIS.  219 

rick  is  concerned.    Think  again.    Did  no  chance  rcferenoo  escape  her  as  Ic 
the  place  in  which  she  is  living  at  the  present  time?** 

*'None  that  I  can  rememher.'' 

''Did  she  not  mention  a  companion  and  friend — a  woman  named  Mrs. 
Clements?" 

*'  Oh,  yes  I  yes !  I  forgot  that.  She  told  me  Mrs.  Clements  wantcil 
Badly  to  go  with  her  to  the  lake  and  take  care  of  her,  and  hegged  and 
prayed  that  she  would  not  venture  into  this  ndghhourhood  alone.** 

"  Was  that  all  she  said  ahout  Mrs.  Clements  P" 

"Yes,  that  was  all." 

"  She  told  you  nothing  about  the  place  in  which  she  took  refuge  aftei 
leaving  Todd's  Comer  ?'* 

"Nothing — I  am  quite  sure." 

"Nor  where  she  has  lived  since  ?    Nor  what  her  illness  had  been ?" 

"No,  Marian ;  not  a  word.  Tell  me,  pray  tell  me,  what  you  think 
aboat  it.    I  don't  know  what  to  think,  or  what  to  do  next." 

"  You  must  do  this,  my  love :  You  must  carefully  keep  the  appointment 
at  the  boat-house,  to-morrow.  It  is  impossible  to  say  what  interests  may 
not  depend  on  your  seeing  that  woman  i^ain.  You  shall  not  be  left  to 
yonrself  a  second  time.  I  will  follow  you,  at  a  safe  distance.  Nobody 
shall  see  me ;  but  I  will  keep  within  hearing  of  your  voice,  if  anything 
happens.  Anne  Catherick  has  escaped  Walter  Hartright,  and  has  escaped 
you.    Whatever  happens,  she  shall  not  escape  me/* 

Laura's  eyes  read  mine  attentively. 

''You  believe,"  she  said,  "  in  this  secret  that  my  husband  is  afraid  of? 
Suppose,  Marian,  it  should  only  exists  after  all,  in  Anne  Catherick's  fancy  ? 
Suppose  slie.only  wanted  to  see  me. and  to  speak  to  me,  for  the  sake  of  old 
i-emembrances  ?  Her  manner  was  so  strange,  I  almost  doubted  her. 
Would  you  trust  her  in  other  things  ?" 

**  I  trust  nothing,  Laura,  but  my  own  observation  of  your  husband's  con- 
duct. I  judge  Anne  Catherick's  words  by  his  actions — and  I  believe  there 
is  a  secret." 

I  said  no  more,  and  got  up  to  leave  the  room.  Thoughts  were  troubling 
me,  which  I  might  have  told  her  if  we  had  spoken  together  longer,  and 
which  it  might  have  been  dangerous  for  her  to  know.  The  influence  of  the 
terrible  dream  from  which  she  had  awakened  me,  hung  darkly  and  heavily 
over  every  £:esh  impression  which  the  progress  of  her  narrative  produced  on 
my  mind.  I  felt  the  ominous  Future,  coming  close ;  chilling  me,  with  an 
unutterable  awe ;  forcing  on  me  the  conviction  of  an  unseen  Design  in  the 
long  series  of  complications  which  had  now  fastened  round  us.  I  thought 
of  Haftright — as  I  saw  him,  in  the  body,  when  he  said  farewell ;  as  I  saw 
hhn,  in  the  spirit,  in  my  dream — and  I,  too,  began  to  doubt  now  wbetnet 
ve  were  not  advancing,  blindfold,  to  an  appointed  and  an  inevitable  End^ 


221)  THE  WOUAN   IN   WHITE, 

Leaving  Laura  to  go  upHstairs  alone,  I  went  out  to  look  about  iiao  m  the 
walks  near  the  houae.  The  circumstances  under  which  Anne  Catherick 
had  parted  from  her,  had  made  me  secretly  anxious  to  know  how  Count 
Fosco  was  passing  the  afternoon ;  and  had  rendered  me  secretly  distrustful 
of  the  results  of  that  solitary  journey  from,  which  Sir  Percival  had  returned 
but  a  few  houra  since. 

After  looking  for  them  in  every  direction,  and  discovering  nothing,  I 
returned  to  the  house,  and  ei^tered  the  different  rooms  on  the  ground  floor, 
one  after  another.  They  were  all  empty.  I  came  out  again  into  the  hall, 
and  went  up-stairs  to  return  to  Laura.  Madame  Fosco  opened  her  door, 
as  I  passed  it  in  my  way  along  the  passage ;  and  I  stopped  to  see  if  she 
could  inform  me  of  the  whereabouts  of  her  husband  and  Sir  Percival. 
Yes ;  she  had  seen  them  both  from  her  window  more  than  an  hour  sinoe. 
The  Count  had  looked  up,  with  his  customary  kindness,  and  had  mentioned, 
with  his  habitual  attention  to  her  in  the  smallest  trifles,  that  he  and  bis 
friend  were  going  out  together  for  a  long  walk. 

For  a  long  walk  I  They  had  never  yet  been  in  each  other's  company 
with  that  object  in  my  experience  of  them.  Sir  Percival  cared  for  no 
exercise  but  riding  :  and  the  Count  (except  when  he  was  polite  enough  to 
be  my  escort)  cared  for  no  exercise  at  all. 

When  I  joined  Laura  again,  I  found  that  she  had  called  to  mind, 
in  my  absence,  the  impending  question  of  the  signature  to  the  deed, 
which,  in  the  interest  of  discussing  her  interview  with  Anne  Cathe- 
rick, we  had  hitherto  overlooked.  Her  first  words  when  I  saw  her, 
expressed  her  surprise  at  the  absence  of  the  expected  summons  to  attend 
Sir  Percival  in  the  library. 

"  You  may  make  your  mind  easy  on  that  subject,"  I  said.  *'  For  tho 
present,  at  least,  neither  your  resolution  nor  mine  will  be  exposed  to  any 
further  trial.  Sir  Percival  has  altered  his  plans :  the  business  of  the  signa- 
ture is  put  off." 

Put  off  ?"  Laura  repeated,  amazedly.    "  Who  told  you  so  ?" 
My  authority  is  Count  Fosco.    I  believe  it  is  to  his  inteiferenoe  that 
we  are  indebted  for  your  husband^s  sudden  chaise  of  purpose." 

*'  It  seems  impossible,  Marian.  If  the  object  of  my  signing  was,  as  we 
suppose,  to  obtain  money  for  Sir  Percival  that  he  urgently  wanted,  how 
can  the  matter  be  put  off?" 

"  I  think,  Laura,  we  have  the  means  at  hand  of  setting  that  doubt  at 
rest.  Have  you  forgotten  the  conversation  that  I  heard  between  Sir  Pei^ 
sival  and  the  lawyer,  as  they  were  crossing  the  hall  P' 

"  No ;  but  I  don't  remember—" 

*^  1  do.  There  were  two  alternatives  proposed.  One,  was  to  obtain  your 
signature  to  the  parchment.  The  other,  was  to  gain  time  by  giving  bUla  at 
three  months.    The  last  resource  is  evidently  the  resource  now  adopted— 


« 


THE   WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  221 

andvremay  fairly  hope  to  be  relieved  from  our  share  in  Sir  Perdvars 
embarrassments  for  some  time  to  come." 

'*0h,  Marian,  it  sounds  too  good  to  be  true  P' 

"Does  it,  my  love?  You  complimented  me  on  my  ready  memory  nt»i 
long  since — but  you  seem  to  doubt  it  now.  I  will  get  my  journal,  and  you 
shall  see  if  I  am  right  or  wrong.** 

I  went  away  and  got  the  book  at  once. 

On  looking  back  to  the  entry  referring  to  the  lawyer's  visit,  we  found 
that  my  recollection  of  the  two  alternatives  presented  was  accurately 
correct.  It  waa  almost  as  great  a  relief  to  my  mind  as  to  Laura's,  to  find 
that  my  men^ory  had  served  me,  on  this  occasion,  as  faithfully  as  usual. 
In  the  perilous  uncertainty  of  our  present  situation,  it  is  hard  to  say  what 
future  interests  may  not  depend  upon  the  regularity  of  the  entries  in  my 
journal,  and  upon  the  reliability  of  my  recollection  at  the  time  when  I 
make  them. 

Laura's  face  and  manner  suggested  to  me  that  this  last  consideration  had 
occurred  to  her  as  well  as  to  myself.  Any  way,  it  is  only  a  trifling  matter; 
and  I  am  almost  ashamed  to  put  it  down  here  in  writing — ^it  seems  to  set 
the  forlomness  of  our  situation  in  such  a  miserably  vivid  light.  We  must 
have  little  indeed  to  depend  on,  when  the  discovery  that  my  memory  can 
still  be  trusted  to  serve  us,  is  hailed  as  if  it  was  the  discovery  of  a  new 
friend  1 

The  first  bell  for  dinner  separated  us.  Just  as  it  had  done  ringing.  Sir 
Perdval  and  the  Count  returned  from  their  walk.  We  heard  the  master  of 
the  house  storming  at  the  servants  for  being  five  minutes  late ;  and  the 
master's  guest  interposing,  as  usual,  in  the  interests  of  propriety,  patience, 
and  peace. 

«  «  41  «  • 

The  evening  has  come  and  gone.  No  extraordinary  event  has  happened. 
But  I  have  noticed  certain  peculiarities  in  the  conduct  of  Sir  Percival  and 
the  Count,  which  have  sent  me  to  my  bed,  feeling  very  anxious  and 
uneasy  about  Anne  Catherick,  and  about  the  results  which  to-mon*ow  may 
produce. 

I  know  enough  by  this  time,  to  be  sure  that  the  aspect  of  Sir  Percival 
which  is  the  most  false,  and  which,  therefore,  means  the  worst,  is  his  polite 
aspect.  That  'long  walk  with  his  friend  had  ended  in  improving  his 
manners,  especially  towards  his  wife.  To  Laura's  secret  surprise  and  to 
my  secret  alarm,  he  called  her  by  her  Christian  name,  asked  if  she  had 
heard  lately  from  her  uncle,  inquired  when  Mrs.  Vesey  was  to  receive  her 
invitation  to  Blackwater,  and  showed  her  so  many  other  little  attentions, 
that  he  almost  recalled  the  days  of  his  hateful  courtship  at  Limmeridge 
House.  This  was  a  bad  sign,  to  begin  with;  and  1  thought  it  more 
ominousr  still,  that  he  should  pretend,  after  dinner,  to  fell  asleep  in  the 


222  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

dmwing-room,  and  that  his  eyes  should  cunningly  follow  lAnm  and  me, 
when  he  thought  we  neither  of  ns  suspected  him.  I  have  never  bad  any 
d-aubt  that  his  sudden  journey  by  himself  took  him  to  Welmingham  to 
question  Mrs.  Catherick — ^but  the  experience  of  to-night  has  made  me  fear 
that  the  expedition  was  not  undertaken  in  vain,  and  that  he  has  got  the 
infomiation  which  he  unquestionably  left  us  to  collect.  If  I  knew  where 
Anne  Catherick  was  to  be  found,  I  would  be  up  to-morrow  with  stmrise, 
and  warn  her. 

While  the  aspect  under  which  Sir  Percival  presented  himself  to-night, 
was  bnhappily  but  too  familiar  to  me,  the  aspect  under  which  the  Count 
appeared,  was,  on  the  other  hand,  entirely  new  in  my  experience  of  him. 
He  permitted  me,  this  evening,  to  make  his  acquaintance,  for  the  first  tune, 
in  the  cliaracter  of  a  Man  of  Sentiment— of  sentiment,  as  I  believe,  really 
felt,  not  assumed  for  the  occasion. 

For  instance,  he  was  quiet  and  subdued ;  his  eyes  and  his  voice  expressed 
a  restrained  sensibility.    He  wore  (as  if  there  was  some  hidden  connexion 
between  his  showiest  finery  and  his  deepest  feeling)  the  most  magnificent 
waistcoat  he  has  yet  appeared  in — ^it  was  made  of  pale  sea-green  silk,  and 
delicately  trimmed  with  fine  silver  braid.     His  voice  sank  into  the  ten- 
derest  inflections,  his  smile  expressed  a  thoughtful,  &therly  admiration, 
whenever  he  spoke  to  Laura  or  to  me.    He  pressed  his  wife's  hand  under 
the  table,  when  she  thanked  him  for  trifling  httle  attentions  at  dinner.     He 
took  wine  with  her.    "  Your  health  and  happiness,  my  angel  T*  he  said, 
with  fond  glistening  eyes.    He  ate  little  or  nothing ;  and  sighed,  and  said 
"  Good  Percival  1**  when  his  friend  laughed  at  him.    After  dinner,  he  took 
Laura  by  the  hand«  and  asked  her  if  she  would  be  "  so  sweet  as  to  play  to 
him.'*    She  complied,  through  sheer  astonishment.    He  sat  by  the  piano, 
with  his  watch-chain  resting  in  folds,  like  a  golden  serpent,  on  the  sea- 
green  protuberance  of  his  waistcoat.    His  immense  head  lay  languidly  on 
one  side ;  and  he  gently  beat  time  with  two  of  his  yellow-white  fingeni. 
He  highly  approved  of  the  music,  and  tenderly  admired  Laura's  manner  of 
playing — ^not  as  poor  Hartright  used  to  praise  it,  with  an  innocent  enjoy- 
ment of  the  sweet  sounds,  but  with  a  clear,  cultivated,  practical  knowledge 
of  the  merits  of  the  composition,  in  the  first  place,  and  of  the  merits  of  the 
player's  touch,  in  the  second.    As  the  evening  closed  in,  he  begged  that  the 
lovely  dying  light  might  not  be  profaned,  just  yet,  by  the  appearance  of  the 
lamps.    He  came,  with  his  horribly  silent  tread,  to  the  distant  window  at 
which  I  was  standing,  to  be  out  of  his  way  and  to  avoid'  the  very  sight  of 
bim— 'he  came  to  ask  me  to  support  his  protest  against  the  lamps.    If  any 
one  of  them  could  only  have  burnt  him  up,  at  that  moment,  I  would  have 
gone  down  to  the  kitchen,  and  fetched  it  myself. 

"Surely  you  like  this  modest,  trembling  English  twilight?"  ho  said, 
•oftly     •«  Ah  I  I  love  it.    I  feel  my  inborn  admiration  of  all  that  is  noble 


THE  WOMAK    IN   WIUTS.  223 

ind  gteac  and  good,  purified  by  the  breath  of  Heaven,  on  an  evening  like 
this.  Natoro  has  such  imperishable  charms,  such  inextinguishable  teudcr- 
uesses  for  me ! — I  am  an  old,  &t  man :  talk  which  would  become  your  lipB, 
Miss  Halcombe,  sounds  like  a  derision  and  a  mockery  on  mine.  It  is  harcl 
to  be  laughed  at  in  my  moments  of  sentiment,  as  if  my  soul  was  like 
myself^  old  and  overgrown.  Observe,  dear  lady,  what  a  light  is  dying  on 
the  trees  1    Does  it  penetrate  your  heart,  as  it  penetrates  mine  P" 

He  paused — ^looked  at  me — and  repeated  the  famous  lines  of  Dante  on 
the  Evening-time,  with  a  melody  and  tenderness  which  added  a  charm  ot 
their  own  to  the  matchless  beauty  of  the  poetry  itself. 

"fiahi"  he  cried  suddenly,  as  the  last  cadence  of  those  noble  Italian 
words  died  away  on  his  lips ;  **  I  make  an  old  fool  of  myself,  and  only 
weary  you  all  1  Let  us  shut  up  the  window  in  our  bosoms  and  get  back  to 
aha  matter-of-fact  world.  Fercival  1  I  sanction  the  admission  of  the  lamps. 
I^dy  Glyde — Miss  Halcombe — ^Eleanor,  my  good  wife — ^which  of  you  will 
indulge  me  with  a  game  at  dominoes  P" 
He  addressed  us  all ;  but  he  looked  especially  at  Laura. 
She  had  learnt  to  feci  my  dread  of  offending  him,  and  she  accepted  his 
proposal.  It  was  more  than  I  could  have  done,  at  that  moment.  I  could 
not  have  sat  down  at  the  same  table  with  him,  for  any  consideration.  His 
eyes  seemed  to  reach  my  inmost  soul  through  the  thickening  obscurity  of  the 
twilight.  His  voice  trembled  along  every  nerve  in  my  body,  and  turned  me 
hot  and  cold  alternately.  The  mystery  and  terror  of  my  dream,  which  had 
haunted  me,  at  intervals,  all  through  the  evening,  now  oppressed  my  mind 
with  an  un^idurable  foreboding  and  an  unutterable  awe.  I  saw  the  white 
tomb  again,  and  the  veiled  woman  rising  out  of  it,  by  Hartright's  side. 
ITie  thought  of  Laura  welled  up  like  a  spring  in  the  depths  of  my  heart,  and 
filled  it  with  waters  of  bitterness,  never,  never  known  to  it  before.  I 
caught  her  by  the  hand,  as  she  passed  me  on  her  way  to  the  table,  and 
kissed  her  as  if  that  night  was  to  part  us  for  ever.  While  they  were  all 
gazing  at  me  in  astonishment,  I  ran  out  through  the  low  window  which 
was  open  before  me  to  the  ground — ^ran  out  to  hide  from  them  in  the  dark- 
ness; to  hide  even  from  myself. 

We  separated,  that  evening,  later  than  usual.  Towards  midnight,  the 
summer  adence  was  broken  by  the  shuddering  of  a  low,  melancholy  wind 
among  the  trees.  We  all  felt  the  sudden  chill  in  the  atmosphere ;  but  the 
Count  was  the  first  to  notice  the  stealthy  rising  of  the  wind.  He  stopped 
while  he  was  lighting  my  dndle  for  me,  and  held  up  his  hand  wamingly : 

**  Listen  I"  he  said,    **  There  'jrill  be  a  change  to-morrow." 


224  TUB  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 


VII. 

June  19TH.*-The  events  of  yesterday  warned  me  to  be  ready,  sooner  ot 
later,  to  meet  the  worst.  To-day  is  not  yet  at  an  end ;  and  the  worst  has 
come. 

Judging  by  the  closest  calculation  of  time  that  Laura  and  I  could  make, 
we  arrived  at  the  conclusion  that  Anne  Gatherick  must  have  appeared  at 
the  boat-house  at  half-past  two  o'clock,  on  the  afternoon  of  yesterday.  I 
accordingly  arranged  that  Laura  should  just  show  herself  at  the  lundieon 
table,  to-day,  and  should  then  slip  out  at  the  first  opportunity ;  leaving  me 
behind  to  preserve  appearances,  and  to  follow  her  as  soon  as  I  could  safely 
do  so.  This  mode  of  proceeding,  if  no  obstacles  occurred  to  thwart  us, 
would  enable  her  to  be  at  the  beat-house  before  half-past  two ;  and  (when 
I  left  the  table,  in  my  turn)  would  take  me  to  a  safe  position  in  the  planta- 
tion, before  three. 

1'he  change  in  the  weather,  which  last  night's  wind  warned  us  to  expect, 
came  with  the  morning.  It  was  raining  heavily,  when  I  got  up ;  and  it 
continued  to  rain  until  twelve  o'clock — when  the  clouds  dispersed,  the  blue 
sky  appeared,  and  the  sun  shone  again  with  the  bright  promise  of  a  fine 
afternoon. 

My  anxiety  to  know  how  Sir  Fercival  and  the  Count  would  occupy  the 
early  part  of  the  day,  was  by  no  means  set  at  rest^  so  far  as  Sir  Fercival 
wus  concerned,  by  his  leaving  us  immediately  aft^r  breakfast,  and  going 
out  by  himself,  in  spite  of  the  rain.  He  neither  told  us  where  he  was 
going,  nor  when  we  might  expect  him  back.  We  saw  him  pass  the  break- 
fast-room window,  hastily,  with  his  high  boots  and  his  waterproof  coat  on 
— ^and  that  was  all. 

The  Count  passed  the  morning  quietly,  indoors ;  some  part  of  it,  in  the 
library ;  some  part,  in  the  drawing-room,  playing  odds  and  ends  of  music 
on  the  piano,  and  humming  to  himself.  Judging  by  appearances,  the  sen- 
timental side  of  his  character  was  persistently  inclined  to  betray  itself  still. 
He  was  silent  and  sensitive,  and  ready  to  sigh  and  languish  ponderously 
as  only  fat  men  can  sigh  and  languish),  on  the  smallest  provocation. 

Luncheon-time  came;  and  Sir  Fercival  did  not  return.  The  Count 
took  his  friend's  place  at  the  table — ^plaintively  devoured  the  greater  part  of 
a  fruit  tart,  submerged  under  a  whole  jugful  of  cream — and  explained  the 
full  merit  of  the  achievement  to  us,  as  soon  as  he  had  done.  '*  A  taste  for 
sweets,"  he  said  in  his  softest  tones  and  his  tenderest  manner,  ''is  the 
innocent  taste  of  women  and  children.  I  love  to  share  it  with  them — it  is 
another  bond,  dear  ladies,  between  you  and  me." 

Laura  left  the  table  in  ten  minutes*  time.  I  was  sorely  tempted  ta 
accompany  her.  But  if  we  had  both  gone  out  together,  we  must  have 
<2cited  suspicion  j  And,  worse  still,  if  we  allowed  Anno  Catherick  to  soe 


THK  WOMAN  Ul  ITHITS.  225 

Uura  aooomiianied  by  a  aeoond  peTsan  who  wu  a  siranger  to  hor,  we 
ihoold  in  all  probability  forfeit  her  confidence  from  that  moment,  never  to 
regain  it  again. 

I  waited,  therefore,  aa  patiently  aa  I  could,  until  the  servant  came  in  to 
clear  the  table.  When  I  quitted  the  room,  there  were  no  signs,  in  the 
houae  or  out  of  it,  of  Sir  Perdval's  return.  I  left  the  Count  with  a  piece  of 
sugar  between  his  lips,  and  the  vicious  cockatoo  scrambling  up  his  waist- 
coat to  get  at  it ;  while  Madame  Fosco»  sitting  opposite  to  her  husband, 
watched  the  proceedings  of  his  bird  and  himself,  aa  attentively  as  if  she  had 
never  seen  anything  of  the  sort  before  in  her  life.  On  my  way  to  the  plan- 
tation I  kept  carefully  beyond  the  range  of  view  from  the  luncheon-room 
window.  Nobody  saw  me  and  nobody  followed  me.  It  was  then  a  quarter 
to  three  o'clock  by  my  watch. 

Once  among  the  trees,  I  walked  rapidly,  until  I  had  advanced  more  than 
half  way  through  the  plantation.  At  that  point,  I  slackened  my  pace,  and 
proceeded  cautiously — ^but  I  saw  no  one,  and  heard  no  voices.  By  little 
and  little,  I  came  within  view  of  the  back  of  the  boat-house — stopped  and 
listened — ^then  went  on,  till  I  was  close  behind  it,  and  must  have  heard  any 
persons  who  were  talking  inside.  Still  the  silence  was  unbroken :  still, 
&r  and  near,  no  sign  of  a  living  creature  appeared  anywhere. 

After  skirting  round  by  the  back  of  the  building,  first  on  one  side,  and 
then  on  the  other,  and  making  no  discoveries,  I  ventured  in  front  of  it,  and 
&irly  looked  in.    The  place  was  empty. 

I  called,  ''Laura!" — at  first,  softly — ^then  louder  and  louder.  No  one 
answered,  and  no  one  appeared.  For  all  that  I  could  see  and  hear,  the  only 
human  creature  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  lake  and  the  plantation,  was 
myself. 

My  heart  began  to  beat  violently;  but  I  kept  my  resolution,  and 
searched,  first  the  boat-house,  and  then  the  groimd  in  front  of  it,  for  any 
signs  which  might  show  me  whether  Laura  had  really  reached  the  place  or 
not.  No  mark  of  her  presence  appeared  inside  the  building ;  but  I  found 
traces  of  her  outside  it,  in  footsteps  on  the  sand. 

I  detected  the  footsteps  of  two  persons — ^large  footsteps,  like  a  man*s, 
and  small  footsteps,  which,  by  putting  my  own  feet  into  them  and  testing 
their  size  in  that  manner,  I  felt  certain  were  Laura's.  The  ground  was 
confusedly  marked  in  this  way,  just  before  the  boat-house.  Close  against 
one  side  of  it,  under  shelter  of  the  projecting  roof,  I  discovered  a  little  hole 
in  the  sand — a  hole  artificially  made,  beyond  a  doubt  I  just  noticed  it, 
and  then  turned  away  immedietely  to  trace  the  footsteps  as  far  as  I  cou^ 
and  to  follow  the  direction  in  which  they  might  lead  me. 

They  led  me,  starting  from  the  left-hand  side  of  the  boat-house,  along 

the  edge  of  the  trees,  a  distance,  i  should  think,  of  between  two  and  three 

'  bondred  yards — on^  then,  the  sandy  ground  showed  uo  further  trace  of 

[ 


226  THE  wouAN  nr  whitb. 

them.  Feeling  that  the  persons  whose  oonrse  I  was  tracking,  must  nooca- 
sarily  hare  entered  the  plantation  at  Ihis  point,  I  entered  it,  too.  At  fiiBt, 
I  oould  find  no  path — but  I  discovered  one,  afterwards,  jnst  faintly  traced 
among  the  trees ;  and  followed  it.  It  took  me,  for  some  distance,  in  the 
direction  of  the  village,  until  I  stopped  at  a  point  where  another  foot-track 
crossed  it.  The  brambles  grew  thickly  on  either  side  of  this  second  path. 
I  stood,  looking  down  it,  uncertain  which  way  to  take  next ;  and,  while  I 
looked,  I  saw  on  one  tiiomy  branch,  some  fragments  of  fringe  from  a 
woman's  shawl.  A  closer  examination  of  the  fHnge  satisfied  me  that  it 
had  been  torn  horn  a  shawl  of  Laura's ;  and  I  instantly  followed  the  second 
path.  It  brought  me  out,  at  last,  to  my  great  relief,  at  the  back  of  the 
nouse.  I  say  to  my  great  relief,  because  I  inferred  that  Laura  must,  for 
some  unknown  reason,  have  returned  before  me  by  this  roundabout  way. 
I  went  in  by  the  courtyard  and  the  offices.  The  first  person  whom  I  met 
in  crossing  the  servants'  hall,  was  Mrs.  Michelson,  the  housekeeper. 

**  Do  you  know,"  I  asked,  "  whether  Lady  Glyde  has  come  in  from  her 
walk  or  not?" 

**  My  lady  came  in,  a  little  while  ago,  with  Sir  Percival,"  answered  the 
housekeeper.  *'  I  am  a&aid,  Miss  Halcombe,  something  very  distressing 
has  happened." 

My  heart  sank  within  me.  "You  don't  mean  an  accident?"  I  said 
&intly. 

**  No,  no  —thank  God,  no  accident  But  my  lady  ran  up-stairs  to  her 
own  room  in  tears ;  and  Sir  Percival  has  ordered  me  to  give  Fanny  warning 
to  leave  in  an  hour^s  time." 

Fanny  was  Laura's  maid ;  a  good,  aifectionate  girl  who  had  been  with 
her  for  years — the  only  person  in  the  house,  whose  fidelity  and  devotion 
we  could  both  depend  upon. 

"  Where  is  Fanny  ?"  I  inquired. 

**  In  my  room,  Miss  Halcombe.  The  young  woman  is  quite  overcome : 
and  I  told  her  to  sit  down,  and  try  to  recover  herself." 

I  went  to  Mrs.  Michelson's  room,  and  found  Fanny  in  a  comer,  with 
her  box  by  her  side,  crying  bitterly. 

She  could  give  me  no  explanation  whatever  of  her  sudden  dismissal. 
Sir  Pezdval  had  ordered  that  she  should  have  a  month's  wages,  in  place  ot 
a  month'b  warning,  and  go.  No  reason  had  been  assigned ;  no  objection 
had  been  made  to  her  conduct.  She  had  been  forbidden  to  appeal  to  her 
mistress,  forbidden  even  to  see  her  for  a  moment  to  say  good-by.  She  was 
to  go  without  explanations  or  farewells — ^and  to  go  at  once. 

After  soothing  the  poor  girl  by  a  few  friendly  words,.!  asked  where  she 
proposed  to  sledp  that  night.  She  replied  that  she  thought  of  going  to  the 
little  inn  in  the  village,  the  landlady  of  which  was  a  respectable  woman, 
^nown  to  the  servants  at  Blackwater  Park.   The  next  morning,  by  leaving; 


THB  WOMAN  IN  WRTTR.  217 

earlv,  she  might  get  l»ck  to  her  friencls  in  GomberlaDcU  withoat  stopping 
in  London,  where  she  was  a  total  stranger. 

I  felt  directly  that  Fanny's  departore  offered  us  a  safo  means  of  oom- 
mumcatlon  with  London  and  with  Limmeridge  House,  of  which  it  might 
be  very  important  to  avail  ourselves.  Accordingly,  I  told  her  that  she 
might  expect  to  hear  from  her  mistress  or  from  me  in  the  course  of  the 
eyening,  and  that  she  might  depend  on  our  both  doing  all  that  lay  in  our 
power  to  help  her,  under  the  trial  of  leaving  us  for  the  present.  Those 
words  said,  I  shook  hands  with  her,  and  went  up-stairs. 

The  door  which  led  to  Laura's  room,  was  the  door  of  an  ante-chamber 
opening  on  to  the  passage.    When  I  tried  it,  it  was  bolted  on  the  inside. 

I  knocked,  and  the  door  was  opened  by  the  same  heavy,  overgrown 
housemaid,  whose  lumpish  insensibility  had  tried  my  patience  so  severely, 
on  the  day  when  I  found  the  wounded  dog.  I  had,  since  that  time,  dis- 
covered that  her  name  was  Margaret  Forcher,  and  that  she  was  the  most 
awkward,  slatternly,  and  obsfanate  servant  in  the  house. 

On  opening  the  door,  she  instantly  stepped  out  to  the  threshold,  and 
stood  grinning  at  me  in  stolid  silence. 

"Why  do  you  stand  there?"  I  said.  *  Don't  you  see  that  I  want  to 
come  in?" 

"Ah,  but  you  mustn't  come  in,"  was  the  answer,  with  another  and  a 
broader  grin  still. 

**  How  dare  you  talk  to  me  in  that  veay  ?    Stand  back  instantly  1" 

She  stretched  out  a  great  red  hand  and  arm  on  each  side  of  her,  so  as  to 
bar  the  doorway,  and  slowly  nodded  her  addle  head  at  me. 

"Master's  orders,"  she  said ;  and  nodded  agun. 

I  had  need  of  all  my  self-control  to  warn  me  against  contesting  the 
matter  with  IteVy  and  to  remind  me  that  the  next  words  I  had  to  say  must 
be  addressed  to  her  master.  I  turned  my  back  on  her,  and  instantly  went 
down  stairs  to  find  him.  My  resolution  to  keep  my  temper  under  all  the 
irritations  that  Sir  Fercival  could  offer,  was,  by  this  time,  as  completely 
forgotten — I  say  so  to  my  shame — as  if  I  had  never  made  it.  It  did  mo 
good— -after  all  I  had  suffered  and  suppressed  in  that  house — ^it  actually  did 
me  good  to  feel  how  angry  I  was. 

The  drawing-room  and  the  breakfast-room  were  both  empty.  I  went  on 
to  the  library ;  and  there  I  found  Sir  Fercival,  the  Count,  and  Madame 
Fosco.  They  were  all  three  standing  up,  close  together,  and  Sir  Fercival 
had  a  little  slip  of  paper  in  his  hand.  As  I  opened  the  door,  I  heard  the 
Count  say  to  him,  "  No— a  thousand  times  over,  no." 

I  walked  straight  up  to  him,  and  looked  him  full  in  the  face. 

**  Am  I  to  understand,  Sir  Fercival,  that  your  wife's  room  is  a  prison, 
and  that  your  housemaid  is  the  gaoler  who  keeps  it  ?"  I  asked. 

"  Yes ;  that  is  what  you  are  to  imderstand,"  he  answered.     **  Take  care 


228  THE  WOKAN  IN  WBITIS. 

my  gaoler  liasn't  got  doable  duty  to  do— take  care  your  room  is  not  a 
prison,  too." 

"  Take  you  care  how  you  treat  your  wife,  and  how  you  threaten  me^  I 
hroke  out,  in  the  heat  of  my  anger.  "There  are  laws  in  England  to 
protect  women  from  cruelty  and  outrage.  If  you  hurt  a  hair  of  Laura's 
head,  if  you  dare  to  interfere  with  my  freedom,  come  what  may,  to  those 
laws  I  will  appeal.*' 

Instead  of  answering  me,  he  turned  round  to  the  Count. 

«*  What  did  I  tell  you  ?"  he  asked.     "  What  do  you  say  now  P' 

«  What  I  said  before,"  replied  the  Count—"  No." 

Even  in  the  vehemence  of  my  anger,  I  felt  his  calm,  cold,  gray  eyes  on  my 
face.  They  turned  away  from  me,  as  soon  as  he  had  spoken,  and  looked 
significantly  at  his  wife.  Madame  Fosco  immediately  moved  close  to  my 
side,  and,  in  that  position,  addressed  Sir  Ferdval  before  either  of  us  could 
speak  again. 

**  Favour  me  with  your  attention,  for  one  moment,"  she  said,  in  her 
clear  icily-suppressed  tones.  **  I  have  to  thank  you.  Sir  Percival,  for  your 
hospitality ;  and  to  decline  taking  advantage  of  it  any  longer.  I  remain  in 
no  house  in  which  ladies  are  treated  as  your  wife  and  Miss  Halcombe  have 
been  treated  here  to-day  1" 

Sir  Percival  drew  back  a  step,  and  stared  at  her  in  dead  silence.  The 
declaration  he  had  just  heard — a  declaration  which  he  well  knew,  as  I  well 
knew,  Madame  Fosco  would  not  have  ventured  to  make  without  her 
husband's  permission— seemed  to  petrify  him  with  surprise.  The  Count 
stood  by,  and  looked  at  his  wife  with  the  most  enthusiastic  admiration. 

"  She  is  sublime  !"  he  said  to  himself.  He  approached  her,  while  he 
spoke,  and  drew  her  hand  through  his  arm.  "I  am  at  your  service, 
Eleanor,"  he  went  on,  with  a  quiet  dignity  that  I  had  never  noticed  in  him 
before.  "And  at  Miss  Halcombe's  service,  if  she  will  honour  me  by 
accepting  all  the  assistance  I  can  offer  her." 

"  Damn  it !  what  do  you  mean  ?"  cried  Sir  Percival,  as  the  Count 
quietly  moved  away,  with  his  wife,  to  the  door, 

"  At  other  times  I  mean  what  I  say ;  but,  at  this  time,  I  mean  what  my 
wife  says,"  replied  the  impenetrable  Italian,  "  We  have  changed  places, 
Percival,  for  once ;  and  Madame  Fosco's  opinion  is — ^mine." 

Sir  Percival  crumpled  up  the  paper  in  his  hand ;  and,  pushing  past  tlio 
Count,  with  another  oath,  stood  between  him  and  the  door. 

"Have  your  own  way,"  he  said,  with  baffled  rage  in  his  low,  half- 
whispering  tones.  "Have  your  own  way — ^and  see  what  comes  of  it" 
Witli  those  words,  he  left  the  room. 

Madame  Fosco  glanced  inquiringly  at  her  husband.  "He  has  gone 
away  very  suddenly,"  she  said.    "  What  does  it  mean  ?" 

"  rt  means  that  you  and  I  together  have  brought  the  worstrtnmperod 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  229 

fflflQ  in  all  England  to  bis  senseB,'*  answered  the  Goont.  ''It  meansi 
Hiss  Halcombey  that  Lady  Glyde  is  relieved  from  a  gross  indignity, 
and  you  from  the  repetition  of  an  unpardonable  insult.  Suffer  me  to 
express  my  admiration  of  your  conduct  and  your  courage  at  a  very  trying 
mDment." 

"  Sincere  admiration,"  suggested  Madame  Fosco. 

"Sincere  admiration,''  ecboed  the  Count. 

I  had  no  longer  the  strength  of  my  first  angry  resistance  to  outrage  and 
injury  to  support  me.  My  heart-sick  anxiety  to  see  Laura ;  my  sense  of 
my  own  helpless  ignorance  of  what  bad  happened  at  the  boat-house,  pressed 
on  me  with  an  intolerable  weight.  I  tried  to  keep  up  appearances,  by 
speaking  to  the  Count  and  his  wife  in  tne  tone  which  they  had  chosen 
to  adopt  in  speaking  to  me.  But  the  words  failed  on  my  lips— my 
breath  came  short  and  thick — ^my  eyes  looked  longingly,  in  silence,  at  the 
door.  The  C!ount,  understanding  my  anxiety,  opened  it,  went  out,  and 
pnlled  it  to  after  him.  At  the  same  time  Sir  Fercivars  heavy  step 
descended  the  stairs.  I  heard  them  whispering  together,  outside,  while 
^ladame  Fosco  was  assuring  me  in  her  calmest  and  most  conventional 
Buumer,  that  she  rejoiced,  for  all  our  sakes,  that  Sir  Fercival's  concbct  bad 
not  oUiged  her  husband  and  herself  to  leave  Blackwater  Park.  Before  she 
liad  done  speaking,  the  whispering  ceased,  the  door  opened,  and  the  Count 
looked  in. 

"  Miss  Halcombe,"  he  said,  "  I  am  happy  to  inform  you  that  Lady  Glyde 
is  mistress  again  in  her  own  house.  I  thought  it  might  be  more  agreeable 
to  you  to  hear  of  this  change  for  the  better  from  me,  than  from  Sir 
Perdval — and  I  have  therefore  expressly  returned  to  mention  it." 

**  Admirable  delicacy  1"  said  Madame  Fosco,  paying  back  her  husband's 
tribute  of  admiration,  with  the  Count's  own  coin,  in  the  Count's  own 
inanner..  He  smiled  and  bowed  as  if  he  had  received  a  formal  compliment 
from  a  polite  stranger,  and  drew  back  to  let  me  pass  out  first. 

Sir  Percival  was  standing  in  the  hall.  As  I  hurried  to  the  stairs  I  heard 
liim  call  impatiently  to  the  Count,  to  come  out  of  the  library. 

"What  are  you  waiting  there  for?"  he  said;  "I  want  to  speak  to 
you." 

"  And  I  want  to  think  a  little  by  myself,"  replied  the  other.  "Wait  till 
later,  Percival— wait  till  later." 

Neither  he  nor  his  friend  said  any  more.  I  gained  the  top  of  the  stairs, 
and  ran  along  the  passage.  In  my  haste  and  my  agitation,  I  left  the  door 
of  the  antechamber  open — ^but  I  closed  the  door  of  the  bedroom  the 
foment  I  was  inside  it. 

Laura  was  sitting  alone  at  the  far  end  of  the  room ;  her  arms  resting 
Wearily  on  a  table,  and  her  face  hidden  in  her  hands.  She  started  up,  with 
«  cry  of  delight,  when  she  saw  me. 


230  TU£  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

«*  How  did  you  get  here  ?*  she  asked,  "  Who  gave  you  leave  ?  Not 
Sir  Peicival  ?*• 

In  my  overpowering  anxiety  to  hear  what  she  had  to  tell  me,  I  oonld 
not  answer  her — I  could  only  put  questions,  on  my  side.  Laura's  eag^r* 
ness  to  know  what  had  passed  down  stairs  proved,  however,  too  strong  to 
be  resisted.    She  persistently  repeated  her  inquiries. 

**  The  Count,  of  course,"  I  answered,  impatiently.  "  Whose  itfluence  in 
the  house—  ?* 

She  stopped  me,  with  a  gesture  of  disgust 

*' Don't  speak  of  him,"  she  cried.  ''The  Count  is  the  vilest  creature 
Ixreathing  I    The  Count  is  a  miserable  Spy T 

Before  we  could  either  of  us  say  another  word,  we  were  alarmed  by  a 
soft  knocking  at  the  door  of  the  bedroom. 

I  had  not  yet  sat  down;  and  I  went  first  to  see  who  it  was.  When  I 
opened  the  door,  Madame  Fosco  confronted  me,  with  my  handkerchief  in 
her  hand. 

''You  dropped  this  down  stairs,  Miss  Halcombe,"  she  said;  "and  I 
thought  I  could  bring  it  to  you,  ob  I  was  passmg  by  to  my  own 
room." 

.  Her  £^6,  naturally  pale,  had  turned  to  such  a  ghastly  whiteness,  that  I 
started  at  the  sight  of  it.  Her  hands,  so  sure  and  steady  at  all  other  times, 
trembled  violently ;  and  her  eyes  looked  wolfishly  past  me  through  the 
crpen  door,  and  fixed  on  Laura. 

She  had  been  listening  before  she  knocked  1  I  saw  it  in  her  white  &ce ; 
I  saw  it  in  her  trembling  hands ;  I  saw  it  in  her  look  at  Laura. 

After  waiting  an  instant,  she  tamed  from  me  in  silence,  and  slowly 
walked  away. 

I  closed  the  door  again.  "  Oh,  Laura  I  Laura  1  We  shall  both  rue  the 
day  when  you  called  the  Count  a  Spy  I" 

"  You  would  have  called  him  so  yourself,  Marian,  if  you  had  known 
what  I  know.  Anne  Catherick  was  right  There  was  a  third  person 
watching  us  in  the  plantation,  yesterday ;  and*  that  third  person        " 

*  Are  you  sure  it  was  the  Count?" 

"  I  am  absolutely  certain.  He  was  Sir  Percival's  spy — he  was  Sir  Per- 
inval's  informer — ^he  set  Sir  Percival  watching  and  waiting,  all  the  morning 
through,  for  Anne  Catherick  and  for  me." 

"  Is  Anne  found  ?    Did  you  see  her  at  the  lake  ?" 

*'  No.  She  has  saved  herself  by  keeping  away  from  the  place.  When  I 
got  to  the  boat-house,  no  one  was  there." 

"Yes?  year 

"I  went  in,  and  sat  waiting  for  a  few  minutes.  But  my  restlessness 
made  me  get  up  again,  to  walk  about  a  little.  As  I  passed  out,  I  saw 
some  marks  on  the  sand*  close  under  the  front  of  the  boat-house.     1 


i:hk  woman  in  wuitii;.  23) 

itooped  down  to  examine  them,  and  diaoovered  a  word  written  in  lar^ge 
lettere,  on  the  sand.    The  word  waa-t-LOOK." 

"And  you  scraped  away  the  sand,  and  dng  a  hollow  place  in  it i^ 

**  How  do  yon  know  that,  Marian  ?" 

'^Isaw  the  hollow  place  myself,  when  I  followed  you  to  the  boat-hoiue. 
Go  on — go  on  !** 

''Yes ;  I  scraped  away  the  sand  on  the  surface ;  and  in  a  little  while,  I 
came  to  a  strip  of  paper  hidden  beneath,  which  had  writing  on  it.  The 
writing  was  signed  with  Anne  Gatherick's  initials." 

•Where  is  itr 

"  Sir  Perciyal  has  taken  it  from  me." 

"Can  you  remember  what  the  writing  was?  Do  you  think  you  can 
repeat  it  to  me  ?" 

"In  substanoe  I  can,  Marian.  It  was  very  short.  You  would  ha^e 
remembered  it,  word  for  word."  ■ 

"  Try  to  tell  me  what  the  substance  was,  before  we  go  any  further." 

She  complied.  I  write  the  lines  down  heie,  exactly  as  she  repeated  ther/i 
to  me.    They  ran  thus : 

**  I  was  seen  with  you,  yesterday,  by  a  tall  stout  old  man,  and  had  to 
nm  to  save  myself.  He  was  not  quick  enough  on. his  feet  to  follow  me, 
md  he  lost  me  among  the  trees.  I  dare  not  risk  coming  back  here  to-day^ 
it  the  same  time.  I  write  this,  and  hide  it  in  the  sand,  at  six  in  the 
m(ttning,  to  tell  yon  so.  When  we  speak  next  of  your  wicked  husband's 
Secret  we  must  speak  safely  or  not  at  all.  Try  to  have  patience.  I 
promiae  you  shall  see  me  again ;  and  that  soon.— : A.  G." 

The  rderence  to  the  "  tall  stoat  old  man  "  (the  terms  of  which  Laura  was 
certain  that  she  had  repeated  to  me  correctly),  left  no  doubt  as  to  who  the 
intruder  had  been.  I  called  to  mind  that  I  had  told  Sir  Fercival,  in  the 
Gonntfs  presence,  the  day  before,  that  Laura  had  gone  to  the  boat-^honse  to 
look  for  her  brooch.  Lx  all  probability  he  had  followed  her  there.  In  Iiis 
ofOcious  way,  to  relieve  her  mind  about  the  matter  of  the  signature,  imme- 
diately after  he  had  mentioned  the  change  in  Sir  Percivars  plans  to  me  in 
the  drawing-room.  In  this  case,  he  could  only  have  got  to  the  neighbour- 
hood of  the  boat-house,  at  the  very  moment  when  Anne  Catherick  dis 
covered  him.  The  suspiciously  hurried  manner  in  which  she  parted  from 
Latira,  had  no  doubt  prompted  his  useless,  attempt  to  follow  her.  Of  the 
oonversatlon  which  had  previously  taken  place  between  them,  he  could 
have  heard  nothing.  The  distance  between  the  house  and  the  lake,  and 
the  time  at  which  he  left  me  in  the  drawing-room,  as  compared  with  the 
time  at  which  Laura  and  Anne  Gatherick  had  been  speaking  together, 
proved  that  fact  to  us,  at  any  rate,  beyond  a  doubt. 


2;j2  the  Woman  m  whitk. 

Having  arrived  at  some  thing  like  a  conclusion,  so  far,  my  next  great 
interest  was  to  know  what  discoveries  Sir  Fercival  had  made,  after  Count 
Fosco  had  given  him  his  information. 

**  How  came  you  to  lose  possession  of  the  letter  ?*'  I  asked.  "  What  did 
you  do  with  it,  when  you  found  it  in  the  sand  ?" 

**  After  reading  it  once  through,"  she  replied,  "  I  took  it  into  the  boat- 
house  with  me,  to  sit  down,  and  look  over  it  a  second  time.  While  I  was 
reading,  a  shadow  fell  across  the  paper.  I  looked  up ;  and  saw  Sir  Fer- 
cival standing  in  the  doorway  watching  me." 

"  Did  you  try  to  hide  the  letter  T 

"  I  tried — but  he  stopped  me.  *  You  needn't  trouble  to  hide  that,*  he 
said.  '  I  happen  to  have  read  it.'  I  could  only  look  at  him,  helplessly — ^I 
could  say  nothing.  'You  understand?'  he  went  on;  'I  have  read  it.  I 
dug  it  up  out  of  the  sand  two  hours  since,  and  buried  it  again,  and  wrote 
the  word  above  it  again,  and  left  it  ready  to  your  hands.  You  can't  lie 
yourself  out  of  the  scrape  now.  You  saw  Anne  Gatherick  in  secret 
yesterday  ;  and  you  have  got  her  letter  in  your  hand  at  this  moment.  I 
have  not  caught  her  yet ;  but  I  have  caught  you.  Give  me  the  letter.' 
He  stepped  close  up  to  me — I  was  alone  with  him,  Marian — what  could  I 
do  ? — ^I  gdfe  him  the  letter." 

"  What  did  he  say  when  you  gave  it  to  him?" 

"  At  first,  he  said  nothing.  He  took  me  by  the  arm,  and  led  me  out  of 
the  boat-house,  and  looked  about  him,  on  all  sides,  as  if  he  was  afiaid  of 
our  being  seen  or  heard.  Then,  he  clasped  his  hand  fast  round  my  arm, 
and  whispered  to  me, — *  What  did  Anne  Gatherick  say  to  you  yesterday  ?— 
I  insist  on  hearing  every  word,  from  first  to  last.' " 

"Did  you  tell  him?" 

"  I  was  alone  with  him,  Marian — ^his  cruel  hand  was  bruising  my  arm — 
what  could  I  do  ?" 

"  Is  the  mark  on  your  arm  still?    Let  me  see  it?" 

"  Why  do  you  want  to  see  it  ?" 

"  I  want  to  see  it,  Laura,  because  our  endurance  must  end,  and  our 
resistance  must  begin,  to-day.  That  mark  is  a  weapon  to  strike  him  with. 
Let  me  see  it  now — ^I  may  have  to  swear  to  it,  at  some  future  time." 

"  Oh,  Marian,  don't  look  so  I  don't  talk  so !    It  doesn't  hurt  me^  now !" 

**  Let  me  see  it !" 

She  showed  me  the  marks.  I  was  past  grieving  over  them,  past  crying 
over  them,  past  shuddering  over  them.  Tliey  say  we  are  either  better  thai 
men,  or  worse.    If  the  temptation  that  has  fallen  in  some  women's  way, 

and  made  them  worse,  had  fallen  in  mine,  at  that  moment Thank  God  I 

my  face  betrayed  nothing  that  his  wife  could  read.  The  gentle,  innocent, 
affectionate  creature  thought  I  was  frightened  for  her  and  sorry  for  her— 
and  thought  no  more. 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  23.^ 

'*  Don't  think  too  seriously  of  it^  Marian,"  she  said,  simply,  as  she  pulled 
fler  sleeve  down  again.    **  It  doesn't  hurt  me,  now." 

"I  will  try  to  think  quietly  of  it,  my  love^  for  your  sake. — ^Well !  well  f 
And  you  told  him  all  that  Anne  Catherick  had  said  to  you — all  that  you 
told  me  ?" 

"Yes;  all.    He  insisted  on  it — I  was  alone  with  him — ^I  could  conceal 


"Did  he  say  anything  when  you  had  done ?" 

"  He  looked  at  me,  and  laughed  to  himself,  in  a  mocking,  bitter  way. 
*  1  mean  to  have  the  rest  out  of  you,*  he  said ;  *  do  you  hear  ? — ^the  rest.'  I 
declared  to  him  solemnly  that  I  had  told  hirn  everything  I  knew.  *  Not 
you  I'  he  answered  ;  *  you  know  more  than  you  choose  to  tell.  Won't  you 
tell  it?  You  shall !  I'll  wring  it  out  of  you  at  home,  if  I  can't  wring  it 
out  of  you,  here.'  He  led  me  away  hy  a  strange  path  through  the  planta- 
tion—a path  where  there  was  no  hope  of  our  meeting  yoM — and  he  spoke 
no  more,  till  we  came  within  sight  of  the  house.  Then  he  stopped  again, 
and  said,  *  Will  you  take  a  second  chance,  if  I  give  it  to  you?  Will  you 
think  better  of  it,  and  tell  me  the  rest  ?'  I  could  only  repeat  the  same 
words  I  had  spoken  before.  He  cursed  my  obstinacy,  and  went  on,  and 
took  me  with  him  to  the  house.  *  You  can't  deceive  me,'  he  said ;  *you 
know  more  than  you  choose  to  telL  111  have  your  secret  out  of  you ;  and 
I'll  have  it  out  of  that  sister  of  yours,  as  well.  There  shall  be  no  more 
plotting  and  whispering  between  you.  Neither  you  nor  she  shall  see  each 
other  again  till  you  have  confessed  the  truth.  I'll  have  you  watched 
morning,  noon,  and  night,  till  you  confess  the  truth.'  He  was  deaf  to 
everything  I  could  say.  He  took  me  straight  up-stairs  into  my  own  room. 
Fanny  was  sitting  there,  doing  some  work  for  me ;  and  he  instantly 
ordered  her  out.  *  I'll  take  good  care  yoiHre  not  mixed  up  in  the  con- 
spiracy,' he  said.  *  You  shall  leave  this  house  to-day.  If  your  mistress 
wants  a  maid,  she  shall  have  one  of  my  choosing.'  He  pushed  me  into  the 
room,  and  locked  the  door  on  me — ^he  set  that  senseless  woman  to  watch 
me  outside — Marian!  he  looked  and  spoke  like  a  madman.  You  may 
hardly  understand  it — ^he  did  indeed." 

**  I  do  understand  it,  Laura.  He  is  mad — ^mad  with  the  terrors  of  a 
guilty  conscience.  Every  word  you  have  said  makes  me  positively  certain 
that  when  Anne  Catherick  left  you  yesterday,  you  were  on  the  eve  of  dis- 
covering a  secret,  which  might  have  been  your  vile  husband's  ruin — and 
he  thinks  you  have  discovered  it.  Nothing  you  can  say  or  do,  will  quiet 
that  guilty  distrust,  and  convince  his  false  nature  of  your  truth.  I  don't 
say  this,  my  love,  to  alarm  you.  I  say  it  to  open  your  eyes  to  your  posi- 
tion, and  to  convince  you  of  the  urgent  necessity  of  letting  me  act,  as  I 
best  can,  for  y^ur  protection,  while  the  chance  is  our  own.  Count  Fosco's 
mtcrferenoe  has  secured  me  access  to  you  to-day ;  but  he  may  withdrav* 


234  THE   WOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

diat  interference  to-morrow.  Sir  Fercival  has  already  dismissed  Fanny^ 
because  she  is  a  quick-witted  girl,  and  devotedly  attached  to  you ;  and  has 
chosen  a  woman  to  take  her  place,  who  cares  nothing  for  your  interests, 
and  whose  dull  intelligence  lowers  her  to  the  level  of  the  watch-dog  in  the 
yard.  It  is  impossible  to  say  what  violent  measures  he  may  take  next, 
unless  we  make  the  most  of  our  opportunities  while  we  have  them." 

"  What  can  we  do,  Marian  ?    Oh,  if  we  could  only  leave  this  house, 
never  to  see  it  again !" 

«  Listen  to  me,  my  love — and  try  to  think  that  you  are  not  quite  help- 
less so  long  as  I  am  here  with  you." 

*I  will  think  BO— I  do  think  so.    Don't  altogether  forget  poor  Fanny,  in 
thinking  of  me.    She  wants  help  and  comfort,  too." 

"  I  will  not  forget  her.    I  saw  her  before  I  came  up  here ;  and  I  have 
arranged  to  communicate  with  her  to-night.    Letters  are  not  safe  in  the 
post-bag  at  Blackwater  Park — and  I  shall  have  two  to  write  to-day,  in  your 
interests,  which  must  pass  through  no  hands  but  Fanny's." 
«  What  letters  ?" 

"  I  mean  to  write  first,  Laura,  to  Mr.  Gilmore*s  partner,  who  has  offered 
to  help'us  in  any  fresh  emergency.  Little  as  I  know  of  the  law,  I  am  cer- 
tain that  it  can  protect  a  woman  from  such  treatment  as  that  ruffian  has 
inflicted  on  you  to-day.  I  will  go  into  no  details  about  Anne  Catherick, 
because  I  have  no  certoin  information  to  give.  But  the  lawyer  shall  know 
of  those  bruises  on  your  arm,  and  of  the  violence  offered  to  yon  in  this 
room — ^he  shall,  before  I  rest  to-night  I" 
"  But,  think  of  the  exposure,  Marian  1" 

'*  I  am  calculating  on  the  exposure.    Sir  Fercival  has  'more  to  dread 
from  it  than  you  have.    The  prospect  of  an  exposure  may  bring  him  to 
terms,  when  nothing  else  will." 
I  rose  as  I  spoke ;  but  Laura  entreated  me  not  to  leave  her. 
^  Tou  will  drive  him  to  desperation,"  she  said,  **  and  increase  our  dangers 
tenfold." 

I  felt  the  truth — the  disheartening  truth— of  those  words.  But  I  could 
not  bring  myself  plainly  to  acknowledge  it  to  her.  In  our  dreadful  posi- 
tion, there  was  no  help  and  no  hope  for  us,  but  in  risking  the  worst.  I  said 
10^  in  guarded  terms.  She  sighed  bitterlyr-^hut  did  not  contest  the  matter. 
She  only  asked  about  the  second  letter  that  I  had  proposed  writing.  To 
whom  was  it  to  be  addressed  ? 

"  To  Mr.  Fairlie,"  I  said.    •*  Your  uncle  is  your  nearest  male  relative;, 
and  the  head  of  the  family.    He  must  and  shall  interfere." 
Laura  shook  her  head  sorrov.fiilly. 

*•  Yes,  yes,''  I  went  on ;  **  your  uncle  is  a  weak,  selfish,  worldly  man,  1 
know.  But  he  is  not  Sir  Fercival  Glyde ;  and  he  has  no  such  friend  aboiit 
him  as  Count  Fosco.    I  expect  nothing  from  his  kindness,  or  his  tendemeas 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  235 

of  feeling  towards  yoa,  or  towards  me.    But  he  will  do  anything  to  pamper 

his  own  indolence,  and  to  secure  his  own  quiet.    Let  me  only  persuade  him 

that  his  interference,  at  this  moment,  will  save  him  inevitahle  trouble  and 
wretchedness  imd  responsibility  hereafter,  and  he  will  bestir  himself  for  his 
own  sake.   I  know  how  to  deal  with  him,  Laura — I  have  had  some  practice." 

"If  you  could  only  prevail  on  him  to  let  me  go  back  to  Linmieridge  for 
a  little  while,  and  stay  there  quietly  with  you,  Marian,  I  could  be  almost 
as  happy  again  as  I  was  before  I  was  married  !" 

Those  words  set  me  thinking  in  a  new  direction.  Would  it  be  possible 
to  place  Sir  Perdval  between  the  two  alternatives  of  either  exposing  him- 
Klf  to  the  scandal  of  legal  interference  on  his  wife's  behalf,  or  of  allowing 
her  to  be  quietly  separated  from  him  for  a  time,  under  pretext  of  a  Tisit  to 
her  nncle's  house?  And  could  he,  in  that  case,  be  reckoned  on  as  likely  to 
accept  the  last  resource  ?  It  was  doubtful — more  than  doubtful.  And  yet, 
hopeless  as  the  experiment  seemed,  surely  it  was  worth  trying  ?  I  resolved 
to  try  it,  in  sheer  despair  of  knowing  what  better  to  do. 

^  Toor  uncle  shall  know  the  wish  you  have  just  expressed,"  I  said ;  ^  and 
.  wUl  ask  the  lawyer's  advice  on  the  subject,  as  well.  Good  may  come  of 
it--and  will  come  of  it,  I  hope." 

Saying  that,  I  rose  again ;  and  again  Laura  tried  to  make  me  resume 
my  seat. 

''Don't  leave  me,"  she  said,  uneasily.  **  My  desk  is  on  that  table.  You 
can  write  here." 

It  tried  me  to  the  quick  to  refuse  her,  even  in  her  own  interests.  But 
we  had  been  too  long  shut  up  alone  together  already.  Our  chance  of  see- 
ing each  other  again  might  entirely  depend  on  our  not  exciting  any  fresh 
suspicions.  It  was  full  time  to  show  myself,  quietly  and  unconcernedly, 
among  the  wretebes  who  were,  at  that  very  moment^  perhaps,  thinking  of 
^  and  talking  of  us  down  stairs.  I  explained  the  miserable  necessity  to 
Lanra ;  and  prevailed  on  her  to  reoognize  it,  as  I  did. 

**  I  will  come  back  again,  love,  in  an  hour  or  less,"  I  said.  "  The  worst 
is  over  for  to-day.    Keep  yourself  quiet,  and  fear  nothing." 

**  Is  the  key  in  the  door,  Marian  ?    Can  I  lock  it  on  the  inside  ?" 

''Yes ;  here  is  the  key.  Lock  the  door ;  and  open  it  to  nobody,  until  I 
wme  upHBtairs  again." 

I  kissed  her,  and  left  her.  It  was  a  relief  to  me,  as  I  walked  away,  to 
hear  the  key  turned  in  the  lock,  and  to  know  that  the  door  was  at  her  own 
command. 

vni. 

JuNB  19th. — ^I  had  only  got  as  far  as  the  top  of  the  stairs,  when  the  lock- 
^g  of  Laura's  door  suggested  to  me  the  precaution  of  also  locking  my  own 
^oor,  and  keeping  the  key  safely  about  me  while  I  was  out  of  the  room. 
%  Journal  was  already  secured,  with  other  papers,  in  the  table-drawer, 


236  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITK. 

but  my  writing  materials  were  left  ont.  These  inclnded  a  seal,  bearing  the 
common  device  of  two  doves  drinking  out  of  the  same  cup ;  and  some 
sheets  of  blotting  paper,  which  had  the  impression  on  them  of  the  closing 
lines  of  my  writing  in  these  pages,  traced  during  the  past  night.  Distorted 
by  the  suspicion  which  had  now  become  a  part  of  myself,  even  such  trifles 
as  these  looked  too  dangerous  to  be  trusted  without  a  guard — even  the 
locked  table-drawer  seemed  to  be  not  sufficiently  protected,  in  my  absence, 
until  the  means  of  access  to  it  had  been  carefully  secured  as  welL 

I  found  no  appearance  of  any  one  having  entered  the  room  while  I  had 
been  talking  with  Laura.  My  writing  materials  (which  I  had  given  the 
servant  instructions  never  to  meddle  with)  were  scattered  over  the  table 
much  as  usual.  The  only  circumstance  in  connection  with  them  that  at 
all  struck  me  was,  that  the  seal  lay  tidily  in  the  tray  with  the  pencils  and 
the  wax.  It  was  not  in  my  careless  habits  (I  am  sorry  to  say)  to  put  it 
there ;  neither  did  I  remember  putting  it  there.  But,  as  I  could  not  call 
to  mind,  on  the  other  hand,  where  else  I  had  thrown  it  down,  and  as  I  was 
also  doubtful  whether  I  might  not,  for  once,  have  laid  it  mechanically  in 
the  right  place,  I  abstained  from  adding  to  the  perplexity  with  which  the 
day*s  events  had  filled  my  mind,  by  troubling  it  a&esh  about  a  trifle.  I 
locked  the  door ;  put  the  key  in  my  pocket ;  and  went  down  stairs. 

Madame  Fosco  was  alone  in  the  hall,  looking  at  the  weather-glass. 

**  Still  falling,"  she  said.    "  I  am  afraid  we  must  expect  more  rain.* 
'  Her  face  was  composed  again  to  its  customary  expression  and  its  custo- 
mary colour.    But  the  hand  with  which  she  pointed  to  the  dial  of  the 
weather-glass  still  trembled. 

Gould  she  have  told  her  husband  already,  that  she  had  overheard  Laura 
reviling  him,  in  my  company,  as  a  "  Spy  ?"  My  strong  suspicion  that  she 
must  have  told  him ;  my  irresistible  dread  (all  the  more  overpowering  from 
its  very  vagueness)  of  the  consequences  which  might  follow ;  my  fixed 
conviction,  derived  from  various  little  self-betrayals  which  women  notice  in 
each  other,  that  Madame  Fosco,  in  spite  of  her  well-assumed  external 
civility,  had  not  forgiven  her  niece  for  innocently  standing  between  her  and 
the  legacy  of  ten  thousand  pounds — ^all  rushed  upon  my  mind  together ;  all 
impelled  me  to  speak,  in  the  vain  hope  of  using  my  own  influence  and  my 
own  powers  of  persuasion  for  the  atonement  of  Laura's  offence. 

"  May  I  trust  to  your  kindness  to  excuse  me,  Madame  Fosco,  if  I  ven- 
ture to  speak  to  you  on  an  exceedingly  painful  subject  ?" 

She  crossed  her  hands  in  front  of  her,  and  bowed  her  head  solemnly, 
without  uttering  a  word,  and  without  taking  her  eyes  off  mine  for  a 
moment. 

"  When  you  were  so  good,  as  to  bring  me  back  my  handkerchief,"  I  went 
on,  **  I  am  very,  very  much  afraid  you  must  have  accidentally  heard  Laura 
say  something  which  I  am  unwilling  to  repeat,  and  which  I  will  not 


THE  WOUkV  IN  WHITE  231 

attempt  to  defend.  I  will  only  venture  to  hope  that  yon  haye  not  thought 
it  of  sufficient  importance  to  he  mentioned  to  the  Count  ?" 

^  I  think  it  of  no  importance  whatever,"  said  ]\£adame  Fosco,  sharply 
and  suddenly.  "  But/'  she  added,  resuming  her  icy  manner  in  a  moment^ 
"I  have  no  secrets  from  my  husband,  even  in  trifles.  "When  he  noticed, 
just  now,  that  I  looked  distressed,  it  was  my  painful  duty  to  tell  him  why 
1  was  distressed  ;  and  I  frankly  acknowledge  to  you,  Miss  Halcomhe,  that 
I  have  told  him." 

I  was  prepared  to  hear  it,  and  yet  she  turned  me  cold  all  over  when  she 
said  those  words. 

"Let  me  earnestly  entreat  you,  Madame  Fosoo— let  me  earnestly  entreat 
the  Count — ^to  make  some  allowances  for  the  sad  position  in  which  my 
sister  is  placed.  She  spoke  while  she  was  smarting  under  the  insult  and 
injustice  inflicted  on  her  by  her  husband — and  she  was  not  herself  when 
she  said  those  rash  words.  May  I  hope  that  they  will  be  considerately  and 
generously  forgiven  ?" 

^Most  assuredly,"  said  the  Count's  quiet  voice,  behind  me.  He  had 
stolen  on  us,  with  his  noiseless  tread,  and  his  book  in  his  hand,  from  the 
library. 

"When  Lady  Glyde  said  those  hasty  words,"  he  went  on,  **  she  did  me 
an  injustice,  which  I  lament— and  forgive.  Let  us  never  return  to  the 
subject,  Miss  Halcomhe ;  let  us  all  comfortably  combine  to  forget  it,  from 
this  moment." 

"You  are  very  kind,"  I  said ;  **you  relieve  me  inexpressibly ** 

I  tried  to  continue — ^but  his  eyes  were  on  me ;  his  deadly  smile,  that 
hides  everything,  was  set,  hard  and  unwavering,  on  his  broad,  smooth  face. 
My  distrust  of  his  unfathomable  falseness,  my  sense  of  my  own  degradation 
in  stooping  to  conciliate  his  wife  and  himself,  so  disturbed  and  confused  me, 
that  the  next  words  failed  on  my  lips,  and  I  stood  there  in  silence. 

"  I  beg  you  on  my  knees  to  say  no  more.  Miss  Halcomhe — ^I  am  truly 
shocked  that  you  should  have  thought  it  necessary  to  say  so  much."  With 
that  polite  speech,  he  took  my  hand — oh,  how  I  despise  myself!  oh,  how 
little  comfort  there  is,  even  in  knowing  that  I  submitted  to  it  for  Laura's 
sake ! — ^he  took  my  hand,  and  put  it  to  his  poisonous  lips.  Never  did  I 
know  all  my  horror  of  him  till  then.  That  innocent  familiarity  turned  my 
blood,  as  if  it  had  been  the  vilest  insult  that  a  man  could  offer  me.  Yet  I 
hid  my  disgust  from  liim — I  tried  to  smile — ^I,  who  once  mercilessly 
despised  deceit  in  other  women,  was  as  false  as  the  worst  of  them,  as  false 
as  the  Judas  whose  lips  had  touched  my  hand. 

I  could  not  have  maintained  my  degrading  self-control — ^it  is  all  that 
redeems  me  in  my  own  estimation  to  know  that  I  could  not — ^if  he  had 
still  continued  to  keep  his  eyes  on  my  face.  His  wife's  tigerish  jealousy 
came  tc  my  rescue,  and  forced  his  attention  away  from  me,  the  moment  he 


288  THE  WOMAN   m  WHITE. 

poBBessed  himself  of  my  hand.  Her  cold  bine  eyes  caught  light ;  her  dull 
white  cheeks  flushed  into  bright  colour ;  she  looked  years  younger  than  her 
age,  in  an  instant. 

''  Count  I"  she  said.  "  Your  foreign  forms  of  politeness  are  not  under- 
stood by  Englishwomen." 

**  Pardon  me»  my  angel  I  The  best  and  dearest  Englishwoman  in  the 
world  understands  them."  With  those  words,  he  dropped  my  hand,  and 
quietly  raised  his  wife's  hand  to  his  lips,  in  place  of  it. 

I  ran  back  up  the  stairs,  to  take  refuge  in  my  own  room.  If  there  had 
been  time  to  think,  my  thoughts,  when  I  was  alone  again,  would  have 
caused  me  bitter  suffering.  But  there  was  no  time  to  thmk.  Happily  for 
the  preservation  of  my  calmness  and  my  courage,  there  was  time  for 
nothing  but  action. 

The  letters  to  the  lawyer  and  to  Mr.  Fairlie,  were  still  to  be  written ; 
and  I  sat  down  at  once,  without  a  moment's  hesitation,  to  devote  myself  to 
them. 

There  was  no  multitude  of  resources  to  perplex  me — there  was  absolutely 
no  one  to  depend  on,  in  the  first  instance,  but  myself.  Sir  Fercival  had 
neither  friends  nor  relatives  in  the  neighbourhood  whose  intercession  I 
could  attempt  to  employ.  He  was  on  the  coldest  terms — ^in  some  cases,  on 
the  worst  terms — ^with  the  families  of  his  own  rank  and  station  wbo  lived 
near  him.  We  two  women-had  neither  father,  nor  brother,  to  come  to  the 
house,  and  take  our  parts.  There  was  no  choice,  but  to  write  those  two 
doubtful  letters— or  to  put  Laura  in  the  wrong  and  myself  in  the  wrong, 
and  to  make  all  peaceable  negotiation  in  the  future  impossible,  by  secretly 
escaping  from  Blackwater  Park.  Nothing  but  the  most  imminent  personal 
peril  could  justify  our  taking  that  second  course.  The  letters  must  be  tried 
first ;  and  I  wrote  them. 

I  said  nothing  to  the  lawyer  about  Anne  Catherick  ;  because  (as  I  had 
already  hinted  to  Laura)  that  topic  was  connected  with  a  mystery  which 
we  could  not  yet  explain,  and  which  it  would  therefore  be  useless  to  write 
about  to  a  professional  man.  I  left  my  correspondent  to  attribute  Sir  Per- 
cival's  disgraceful  conduct,  if  he  pleased,  to  fresh  disputes  about  money 
matters ;  and  simply  consulted  him  on  the  possibility  of  taking  legal  pro- 
ceedings foi  Laura's  protection,  in  the  event  of  her  husband's,  refusal  to 
allow  her  to  leave  Blackwater  Park  for  a  time  and  return  with  me  to  Lim- 
meridge.  I  referred  him  to  Mr.  Fairlie  for  the  details  of  this  last  arrange- 
ment— I  assured  him  that  I  wrote  with  Laura's  authority — and  I  ended  by 
entreating  him  to  act  in  her  name,  to  the  utmost  extent  of  his  power,  and 
with  the  least  possible  loss  of  time. 

The  letter  to  Mr.  Fairlie  occupied  me  next.  I  appealed  to  him  on  the 
terms  which  I  had  mentioned  to  Lnura  ns  the  most  hkely  to  make  him  be- 
stir himself ;  I  enclosed  a  copy  of  my  letter  to  the  lawyer,  to  show  liini 


THE  WOMAN  IK  WHITR.  239 

how  flerious  the  case  was ;  and  I  represented  our  removal  to  Lixmneridge  ai 
the  only  compromise  whidi  would  prevent  the  danger  and  distr^  d 
Laora's  present  position  from  inevitably  affecting  her  imcle  aa  well  as  her- 
self, at  no  very  distant  time. 

When  I  had  done,  and  had  sealed  and  directed  the  two  envelopes,  I  went 
hack  with  the  letters  to  Laura's  room,  to  show  her  that  they  were  written. 

'<  Has  anybody  disturbed  you  ?**  I  asked,  when  she  opened  the  door  to 
me. 

'*  Nobody  has  knocked,"  she  replied.  "  But  I  heard  some  one  in  the 
outer  room.'* 

"Was  it  a  man  or  a  woman?" 

"  A  woman.    I  heard  the  mstling  of  her  gown." 

« A  rustling  Hke  silk?" 

"Yes;  like  silk." 

Madame  Fosco  had  evidently  been  watching  outside.  The  mischief  she 
might  do  by  herself,  was  little  to  be  feared.  But  the  mischief  she  might 
do,  as  a  willing  instrument  in  her  husband's  hands,  was  too  formidable  to 
be  overlooked. 

"  What  became  of  the  rustling  of  the  gown  when  you  no  longer  heard  it 
in  the  ante-room  ?"  I  inquired.  "  Did  you  hear  it  go  past  your  wall,  along 
the  passage?" 

"  Tes.     I  kept  still,  and  listened ;  and  just  heard  it." 

"Which  way  did  it  go?" 

"  Towards  your  room." 

I  considered  again.  The  sound  had  not  caught  my  ears.  But  I  was 
then  deeply  absorbed  in  my  letters  ;  and  I  write  with  a  heavy  hand,  and  a 
quill  pen,  scraping  and  scratching  noisily  over  the  paper.  It  was  more 
likely  that  Madame  Fosco  would  hear  the  scraping  of  my  pen  than  that  I 
should  hear  the  rustling  of  her  dress.  Another  reason  (if  I  had  wanted 
one)  for  not  trusting  my  letters  to  the  post-bag  in  the  hall. 

Laura  saw  me  thinking.  " More  difficulties  1"  she  said,  wearily ;  "more 
difficulties  and  more  dangers  I" 

"  No  dangers,"  I  replied.  **  Some  little  difficulty,  perhaps.  I  am  think- 
ing of  the  safest  way  of  putting  my  two  letters  into  Fanny's  hands." 

"  You  have  really  written  them,  then  ?  Oh,  Marian,  run  no  risks — ^pray, 
pray  run  no  risks  I" 

"  No,  no— no  fear.    Let  me  see— what  o'clock  is  it  now  ?" 

It  was  a  quarter  to  six.  There  would  be  time  for  me  to  get  to  the  vil- 
lage inn,  and  to  come  back  again,  before  dinner.  If  I  waited  till  the  even- 
ing, I  might  find  no  second  opportunity  of  safely  leaving  the  house. 

"  Keep  the  key  turned  in  the  lock,  liaura,"  I  said,  '*  and  don't  be  afraid 
ftbout  me.  If  you  hear  any  inquiries  made,  call  through  the  door,  and  my 
Ihat  I  am  gone  out  foi'  a  walk." 


240  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITB. 

«  When  shall  you  be  back?" 

''Before  dinner,  without  fail.  Courage,  my  love.  By  this  time  to* 
morrow,  you  will  have  a  clear-headed,  trustworthy  man  acting  for  yonr 
good.  Mr.  Gilmore's  partner  is  our  next  best  friend  to  Mr.  Gilmoiv 
himself." 

A  moment's  reflection,  as  soon  as  I  was  alone,  convinced  me  that  I  had 
better  not  appear  in  my  walking-dress,  until  I  had  first  discovered  what 
was  going  on  in  the  lower  part  of  the  house.  I  had  not  ascertained  yet 
whether  Sir  Percival  was  in  doors  or  out. 

The  singing  of  the  canaries  in  the  library,  and  the  smell  of  tobacpo-smoke 
that  came  through  the  door,  which  was  not  dosed,  told  me  at  once  where 
the  Count  was.  I  looked  over  my  shoulder,  as  I  passed  the  doorway ;  and 
saw,  to  my  surprise,  that  he  was  exhibiting  the  docility  of  the  birds,  in  his 
most  engagingly  polite  manner,  to  the  housekeeper.  He  must  have  spe- 
cially Invited  her  to  see  them — for  she  would  never  have  thought  of  going 
into  the  library  of  her  own  accord.  The  man's  slightest  actions  had  a  pur- 
pose of  some  kind  at  the  bottom  of  every  one  of  them.  What  could  be  his 
purpose  here  ? 

It  was  no  time  then  to  inquire  into  his  motives.  I  looked  about  for 
Madame  Fosco  next ;  and  found  her  following  her  favourite  cirde,  round 
and  round  the  fish-pond. 

I  was  a  little  doubtful  how  she  would  meet  me,  after  the  outbreak  of 
jealousy,  of  which  I  had  been  the  cause  so  short  a  time  since.  But  her  hn»- 
band  had  tamed  her  in  the  interval ;  and  she  now  spoke  to  me  with  the 
same  civility  as  usual.  My  only  object  in  addressing  mysdf  to  her  was  to 
ascertain  if  she  knew  what  had  become  of  Sir  Percival.  I  contrived  to 
refer  to  him  indirectly  ;  and,  after  a  little  fencing  on  either  side^  she  at  last 
mentioned  that  he  had  gone  out. 

"  Which  of  the  horses  has  he  taken  ?"  I  asked,  carelessly. 

"  None  of  them,"  she  replied.  "  Ho  went  away,  two  hours  since,  on  foot, 
As  I  understood  it,  his  object  was  to  make  fresh  inquiries  about  the  woman' 
named  Anne  Catherick.  Ue  appears  to  be  unreasonably  anxious  about 
tracing  her.  Do  you  happen  to  know  if  she  is  dangerously  mad.  Miss 
Halcombe?" 

"  I  do  not.  Countess." 

"  Are  you  going  in  ?" 

"  Yes,  I  think  so.    I  suppose  it  will  soon  be  time  to  dress  for  dinner." 

We  entered  the  house  together.  Madame  Fosco  strolled  into  the  library, 
and  closed  the  door.  I  went  at  once  to  fetch  my  hat  and  shawl.  Every 
moment  was  of  importance,  if  I  was  to  get  to  Fanny  at  the  inn  and  be  back 
before  dinner. 

When  I  crossed  the  hall  again,  no  one  was  there ;  and  the  singing  of  the 
birds  in  the  library  had  ceased.    I  could  not  stop  to  make  any  fresh  invw' 


tHE   VrOMAN  IN  WHITE.  241 

tigalioDfl.    I  oould  only  asBnre  myself  that  the  way  was  clear,  and  then 
leave  the  house,  with  the  two  letters  safe  in  my  pocket. 

On  my  way  to  the  village,  I  prepared  myself  for  the  possibility  of  meet- 
ing Sir  Percival.  As  long  as  I  had  him  to  deal  with  alone,  I  felt  certain  of 
not  losing  my  presence  of  mind.  Any  woman  who  is  sure  of  her  own  wits, 
is  a  match,  at  any  time,  for  a  man  who  is  not  sure  of  his  own  temper.  I 
had  no  such  fear  of  Sir  Ferdval  as  I  had  of  the  Count  Instead  of  flutter- 
ing, it  had  composed  me,  to  hear  of  the  errand  on  which  he  had  gone  out. 
While  the  tracing  of  Anne  Catherick  was  the  great  anxiety  that  occupied 
him,  Laura  and  I  might  hope  for  some  cessation  of  any  active  persecution 
at  his  hands.  For  our  sakes  now,  an  well  as  for  Anne's,  I  hoped  and 
prayed  fervently  that  she  might  still  escape  him. 

I  walked  on  as  briskly  as  the  heat  would  let  me,  till  I  reached  the  cross- 
road which  led  to  the  village ;  looking  back,  from  time  to  time,  to  make 
sure  that  I  was  not  followed  by  any  one. 

Nothing  was  behind  me,  all  the  way,  but  an  empty  country  waggon. 
The  noise  made  by  the  lumbering  wheels  annoyed  me ;  and  when  I  found 
that  the  waggon  took  the  road  to  the  village,  as  well  as  myself,  I  stopped 
to  let  it  go  by,  and  pass  out  of  hearing.  As  I  looked  towards  it,  more 
attentively  than  before,  I  thought  I  detected,  at  intervals,  the  feet  of  a  man 
walking  close  behind  it ;  the  carter  being  in  front,  by  the  side  of  his  horses. 
The  part  of  the  cross-road  which  I  had  just  passed  over  was  so  narrow,  that 
the  waggon  coming  after  me  brushed  the  trees  and  thickets  on  either  side ; 
and  I  had  to  wait  until  it  went  by,  before  I  could  test  the  correctness  ot 
my  impression.  Apparently,  that  impression  was  wrong,  for  when  the 
waggon  had  passed  me,  the  road  behind  it  was  quite  clear. 

I  reached  the  inn  without  meeting  Sir  Percival,  and  without  noticing 
anything  more ;  and  was  glad  to  find  that  the  landlady  had  received  Fanny 
with  all  possible  kindness.  The  girl  had  a  little  parlour  to  sit  in,  away 
from  the  noise  of  the  tap-room,  and  a  clean  bed-chamber  at  the  top  of  the 
house.  She  began  crying  again,  at  the  sight  of  me ;  and  said,  poor  soul, 
truly  enough,  that  it  was  dreadful  to  feel  herself  turned  out  into  the  world, 
as  if  she  had  committed  some  unpardonable  fault,  when  no  blame  could  be 
laid  at  her  door  by  anybody — ^not  even  by  her  master  who  had  sent  her  away. 

"  Try  to  make  the  best  of  it,  Fanny,'*  I  said.  "  Your  mistress  and  I  will 
stand  your  friends,  and  will  take  care  that  your  character  shall  not  suffer. 
Now,  listen  to  me.  I  have  very  little  time  to  spare,  and  I  am  going  to  put 
a  great  trust  in  your  hands.  I  wish  you  to  take  care  of  these  two  letters. 
The  one  with  the  stamp  on  it  you  are  to  put  into  the  post,  when  you  reach 
London,  to-morrow.  The  other,  directed  to  Mr.  Fairlie,  you  are  to  deliver 
to  him  yourself,  as  soon  as  you  get  home.  Keep  both  the  letters  about 
you,  and  give  them  up  to  no  one.  They  are  of  the  last  importance  to  your 
mistress's  interests," 


212  THE  WOMA^   121    WHITE. 

b*tamj  put  ihe  letters  into  the  bosom  of  her  dress.  **  There  they  shall 
stop,  miss,"  she  said,  "  till  I  have  done  what  you  tell  me." 

"  Mind  you  are  at  the  station  in  good  time  to-morrow  morning,"  I  con- 
tinued. "  And,  when  you  see  the  housekeeper  at  Limmeridge,  give  her  my 
oompliments,  and  say  that  you  are  in  my  service,  until  Lady  Glyde  is  able 
to  take  you  back.  We  may  meet  again  sooner  than  you  think.  So  keep  a 
good  heart,  and  donH  miss  the  seven  o'clock  train.'' 

"  Thank  you,  miss — thank  you  kindly.  It  gives  one  courage  to  hear  your 
voice  again.  Please  to  offer  my  duty  to  my  lady ;  and  say  I  left  all  the 
things  as  tidy  as  I  could  in  the  time.  Oh,  dear  I  dear  I  who  will  dress  her 
for  dinner  to-day  ?    It  really  breaks  my  heart,  miss,  to  think  of  it.." 

When  I  got  back  to  the  house,  I  had  only  a  quarter  of  an  hour  to  spare, 
to  put  myself  in  order  for  dinner,  and  to  say  two  words  to  Laura  before  I 
went  down  stairs. 

"The  letters  are  in  Fanny's  liands,"  I  whispered  to  her,  at  the  door. 
"  Do  you  mean  to  join  us  at  dinner  T* 

**  Oh,  no,  no — ^not  for  the  world  I" 

*  Has  anything  happened  ?    Has  any  one  disturbed  you  ?" 

«  Yes— just  now — Sir  Percival " 

•*  Did  he  come  in?" 

*•  No :  he  frightened  me  by  a  thump  on  the  door,  outside.  I  said,''*'Who's 
there  f  *  You  know,'  he  answered.  *  Will  you  alter  your  mind,  and  tell 
me  the  rest  ?  You  shall !  Sooner  or  later,  I'll  wring  it  out  of  you.  You 
know  where  Anne  Catherick  is,  at  this  moment!'  'Indeed,  indeed,'  I 
said,  *  I  don't.'  *  You  do  I'  he  called  back.  *ril  crush  your  obstinacy — 
mind  that ! — 111  wring  it  out  of  you  1'  He  went  away,  with  those  words — 
went  away,  Marian,  hardly  five  minutes  ago." 

He  had  not  found  Anne  I  We  were  safe  for  that  night — he  had  not 
found  her  yet. 

"  You  are  going  down  stairs,  Marian  ?    Come  up  again  in  the  evening." 

**  Yes,  yes.  Don't  be  imeasy,  if  I  am  a  little  late — I  must  be  careful  not 
to  give  offence  by  leaving  them  too  soon." 

The  dinner-bell  rang ;  and  I  hastened  away. 

Sir  i*ercival  took  Madame  Fosco  into  the  dining-room ;  and  the  Count 
gave  me  his  arm.  He  was  hot  and  flushed,  and  was  not  dressed  with  his 
customary  care  and  completeness.  Had  he,  too,  been  out  before  dinner, 
and  been  late  in  getting  back  ?  or  was  he  only  suffering  from  the  heat  a  little 
more  severely  than  usual  ? 

However  this  might  be,  he  was  unquestionably  troubled  by  some  secret 
annoyance  or  anxiety,  which,  with  all  his  powers  of  deception,  he  was  not 
able  entirely  to  oonceid.  Through  the  whole  of  dinner,  he  was  almost  as 
TUent  as  Sir  Percival  himself;  and  he,  every  now  and  then,  looked  at  nis 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  243 

trife  with  an  expre8si<ni  of  furtive  uneasineBs,  which  was  quite  new  in  my 
exp^enoe  of  him.  The  one  social  ohiigation  which  he  seemed  to  be  sell'" 
possessed  enough  to  perform  as  carefully  as  ever,  was  the  obligation  of  being 
persistently  civil  and  attentive  to  me.  What  vile  object  he  has  in  view,  I 
cannot  still  discover ;  but,  be  the  design  what  it  may,  invariable  politeness 
towards  myself,  invariable  humility  towards  Laura,  and  invariable  suppress 
sioD  (at  any  cost)  of  Sir  Ferdval's  clumsy  violence,  have  been  the  means 
he  has  resolutely  and  impenetrably  used  to  get  to  his  end,  ever  since  he  set 
foot  in  this  house.  I  suspected  it,  when  he  first  interfered  in  our  favour, 
on  the  day  when  the  deed  was  produced  in  the  library,  and  I  feel  certain  of 
it,  now. 

When  Madame  Fosco  and  I  rose  to  leave  the  table,  the  Count  rose  also  to 
aoeompany  us  back  to  the  drawing-room. 

"What  are  you  going  away  for?"  asked  Sir  Percival — ^**I  mean  yoM, 
Fosco." 

"I  am  going  away,  because  I  have  had  dinner  enough,  and  wine  enough," 
answered  tlie  Count.  "  Be  so  kind,  Percival,  as  to  make  allowances  for 
my  foreign  habit  of  going  out  with  the  ladies,  as  well  as  coming  in  with 
them." 

'' Nonsense  1  Another  glass  of  claret  won't  hurt  you.  Sit  down  i^in 
like  an  Englisliman.  I  want  half  on  hour's  quiet  talk  with  you  over  our 
wine." 

"  A  quiet  talk,  Percival,  with  all  my  heart,  but  not  now,  and  not  over 
liie  wine.     Later  in  the  evening  if  you  please — ^lat^  in  the  evening." 

"  Civil  f  said  Sir  Percival,  savagely.  **  Civil  behaviour,  upon  my  soul, 
to  a  man  in  his  own  house !" 

I  had  more  than  once  seen  him  look  at  the  Count  uneasily  during  dinner- 
time, and  had  observed  that  the  Count  carefully  abstained  from  looking  at 
him  in  return.  This  circumstance,  coupled  with  the  host's  anxiety  for  a 
little  quiet  talk  over  the  wine  and  the  guest's  obstinate  resolution  not  to  sit 
down  again  at  the  table,  revived  in  my  memory  the  request  which  Sir 
Percival  hid  vainly  addressed  to  his  friend,  earlier  in  the  day,  to  come  out 
of  the  library  and  speak  to  him.  The  Count  had  deferred  granting  that 
private  interview,  when  it  was  first  asked  for  in  the  afternoon,  and  had 
again  deferred  granting  it,  when  it  was  a  second  time  asked  for  at  the 
dinner-table.  Whatever  the  coming  subject  of  discussion  between  them 
might  be,  it  was  clearly  an  important  subject  in  Sr  Percival's  estimation — 
and  perhaps  (judging  from  his  evident  reluctance  to  approach  tt),  a  dan- 
gerous subject  as  well,  in  the  estimation  of  the  Gaunt. 

These  considerations  occurred  to  me  while  we  were  passing  from  the 
dining-room  to  the  drawing-room.  Sir  Percival's  angry  commentary  on 
his  friend's  desertion  of  him  had  not  produced  the  sli^test  effect.  The 
Djunt  obstinately  accompanied  us  to  the  tea-table— waited  a  minute  f 


244  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

two  in  the  room— went  ont  into  the  hall — and  returned  with  the  post- 
bag  in  his  hands.  It  was  then  eight  o'clock — ^the  hour  at  which  the  letters 
were  always  despatched  from  Blackwater  Park. 

**  Have  you  any  letter  for  the  post,  Miss  Haloombe  ?**  he  asked,  approach- 
ing me,  with  the  bag. 

I  saw  Madame  Fosco,  who  was  making  the  tea,  pause,  with  the  sugar- 
tongs  in  her  hand,  to  listen  for  my  answer. 

"  No,  Count,  thank  you.    No  letters  to-day." 

He  gave  the  bag  to  the  servant,  who  was  then  in  the  room ;  sat  down  at 
the  piano ;  and  played  the  air  of  the  lively  Neapolitan  street-song,  *'  La 
mia  Carolina,"  twice  over.  His  wife,  who  was  usually  the  most  deliberate 
of  women  in  all  her  movements,  made  the  tea  as  quickly  as  I  could  have 
made  it  myself — finished  her  own  cup  in  two  minutes — and  quietly  glided 
out  of  the  room. 

I  rose  to  follow  her  example — ^partly  because  I  suspected  her  of  attempt- 
ing some  treachery  up-stairs  with  Laura ;  partly,  because  I  was  resolved 
not  to  remain  alone  in  the  same  room  with  her  husband. 

Before  I  could  get  to  the  door,  the  Count  stopped  me,  by  a  request  for  a 
cup  of  tea.  I  gave  him  the  cup  of  tea ;  and  tried  a  second  time  to  get 
away.  He  stopped  me  again — ^this  time,  by  going  back  to  the  piano,  and 
suddenly  appealing  to  me  on  a  musical  question  in  which  he  declared  that 
the  honour  of  his  country  was  concerned. 

I  vainly  pleaded  my  own  total  ignorance  of  music,  and  total  want  of 
taste  in  Ihat  direction.  He  only  appealed  to  me  again  with  a  vehemence 
which  set  all  further  protest  on  my  part  at  defiance.  *'  The  English  and 
the  Germans  (he  indignantly  declared)  were  always  reviling  the  Italians 
for  their  inability  to  cultivate  the  higher  kinds  of  music.  We  were  per- 
petually talking  of  our  Oratorios;  and  they  were  perpetually  talking  of 
their  Symphonies.  Did  we  forget  and  did  they  forget  his  immortal  friend 
and  countryman,  Bossini  ?  What  was  '  Moses  in  Egypt,*  but  a  sublime 
oratorio,  which  was  acted  on  the  stage,  instead  of  being  coldly  sung  in  a 
concert-room  ?  What  was  the  overture  to  Guillaume  Tell,  but  a  symphony 
under  another  name?  Had  I  heard  Moses  in  Egypt?  Would  I  listen  to 
this,  and  this,  and  this,  and  say  if  anything  more  sublimely  sacred  and 
grand  had  ever  been  composed  by  mortal  man  ?" — ^And,  without  waiting 
for  a  word  of  assent  or  dissent  on  my  part,  looking  me  hard  in  the  face  all 
the  time,  he  began  thundering  on  the  piano,  and  singing  to  it  with  loud 
and  lofty  enthusiasm ;  only  interrupting  himself,  at  intervals,  to  announce 
to  me  fiercely  the  titles  of  the  different  pieces  of  music :  "  Chorus  of 
Egyptians,  in  the  Plague  of  Darkness,  Miss  Halcombe!" — "  Redtativo  of 
Moses,  with  the  tables  of  the  Law." — "  Prayer  of  Israelites,  at  the  passage 
of  the  Bed  Sea.  Aha  I  Aha!  Is  that  sacred?  is  that  sublime?"  The 
piano  trembled  imder  his  powerful  hands }  and  the  teacui^s  on  the  tablQ 


THB  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  245 

rattled,  as  hid  big  bass  voice  thundered  out  the  notesy  and  his  heavy  fix>t 

beat  time  on  the  floor. 

There  was  something  horrible— something  fierce  and  devilish,  in  the  out- 
burst of  his  delight  at  his  own  singing  and  playing,  and  in  the  triumph 
with  which  he  watched  its  effect  upon  me,  as  I  shrank  nearer  and  nearer  to 
the  door.  I  was  released,  at  last,  not  by  my  own  efforts,  but  by  Sir 
PerciFaFs  interposition.  He  opened  the  dining-room  door,  and  called  out 
angrily  to  know  what  *'  that  infernal  noise  "  meant.  The  Count  instantly 
got  up  from  the  piano.  "  Ah  I  if  Percival  is  coming,"  he  said,  **  harmony 
and  melody  are  both  at  an  end.  The  Muse  of  Music,  Miss  Haloombe,  deserts 
us  in  dismay  ;  and  I,  the  fat  old  minstrel,  exhale  the  rest  of  my  enthusiasm 
in  the  open  air  1"  He  stalked  out  into  the  verandah,  put  his  hands  in  his 
pockets,  and  resumed  the  *'  recitative  of  Moses,"  sotto  voce,  in  the  garden. 

I  heard  Sir  Percival  call  after  him,  from  the  dining-room  window.  But 
he  took  no  notice :  he  seemed  determined  not  to  hear.  That  long-deferred 
quiet  talk  between  them  was  still  to  be  put  off,  was  still  to  wait  for  the 
Count's  absolute  will  and  pleasure. 

He  had  detained  me  in  the  drawing-room  nearly  half  an  hour  from  the 
time  when  his  wife  left  us.  Where  had  she  been,  and  what  had  she  been 
doing  in  that  interval  ? 

I  went  up-stairs  to  ascertain,  but  I  made  no  discoveries ;  and  when  I 
questioned  Laura,  I  found  that  she  had  not  heard  anything.  Nobody  had 
disturbed  her — no  faint  rustling  of  the  silk  dress  had  been  audible,  either 
in  the  ante-room  or  in  the  passage. 

It  was  then  twenty  minutes  to  nine.  After  going  to  my  room  to  get  my 
journal,  I  returned,  and  sat  with  Laura;  sometimes  writing,  sometimes 
stopping  to  talk  with  her.  Nobody  came  near  us,  and  nothing  happened. 
We  remained  together  till  ten  o'clock.  I  then  rose ;  said  my  last  cheering 
words ;  and  wished  her  good  night.  She  locked  her  door  again,  after  we  had 
arranged  that  I  should  come  in  and  see  her  the  first  thing  in  the  morning. 

I  had  a  few  sentences  more  to  add  to  my  diary,  before  going  to  bed 
myself;  and,  as  I  went  down  again  to  the  drawing-room  after  leaving 
Laura,  for  the  last  time  that  weary  day,  I  resolved  merely  to  show  myself 
there,  to  make  my  excuses,  and  then  to  retire  an  hour  earlier  than  usual, 
for  the  night. 

Sir  Percival,  and  the  Count  and  his  wife,  were  sitting  together.  Sir 
Percival  was  yawning  in  an  easy-chair ;  the  Count  was  reading ;  Madame 
Fosco  was  fanning  herself.  Strange  to  say,  her  face  was  flushed,  now. 
She,  whenever  suffered  from  the  heat,  was  most  undoubtedly  suffering  from 
it  to-night. 

"I  am  afraid.  Countess,  you  are  not  quite  so  well  as  usual ?**  I  said. 

** The  very  remark  I  was  about  to  make  to  you**  she  replied.  "  You  are 
V)oking  pale,  my  dear." 


Zi3  "THE  WGMAN  IN  WHITE. 

My  dear !  It  was  the  first  time  she  had  ever  addressed  me  with  thai 
familiarity  I  There  was  an  insolent  smile,  too,  on  her  face,  when  she  said 
the  words. 

**  I  am  suffering  from  one  of  my  bad  headaches/'  I  answered,  coldly. 

*'Ah^  indeed?  Want  of  exercise,  I  suppose?  A  walk  before  dimiei 
would  have  been  just  the  thing  for  you."  She  referred  to  the  **  walk" 
with  a  strange  emphasis.  Had  she  seen  me  go  out?  No  matter  if  she 
had.    The  letters  were  safe  now,  in  Fanny's  hands. 

*'  Come,  and  have  a  smoke,  Fosco^"  said  Sir  Percival,  rising,  with  another 
uneasy  look  at  his  fri^d. 

**  With  pleasure,  Fcrdval,  when  the  ladies  have  gone  to  bed,"  replied  the 
Count. 

'*  Excuse  me.  Countess,  if  I  set  you  the  example  of  retiring,"  I  said. 
**  The  only  remedy  for  such  a  headache  as  mine  is  going  to  bed.** 

I  took  my  leave.  There  was  the  same  insolent  smile  on  the  woman's 
face  when  I  shook  hands  with  her.  Sir  Percival  paid  no  attention  to  me. 
He  was  looking  Impatiently  at  Madame  Fosco,  who  showed  no  signs  of 
leaving  the  room  with  me.  The  Count  smiled  to  himself  behind  his  book. 
There  was  yet  another  delay  to  that  quiet  talk  with  Sir  Ferdval — and  the 
Countess  was  the  impediment,  this  time. 

IX. 
JuNB  19th.— Once  safely  shut  into  my  own  room,  I  opened  these  pages, 
and  prepared  to  go  on  ^vith  that  part  of  the  day's  record  which  was  still  left 
to  write. 

For  ten  mhiutes  or  more,  I  sat  idle,  with  the  pen  in  my  hand,  thinking 
over  the  events  of  the  last  twelve  hours.  When  I  at  last  addressed  myself 
to  my  task,  I  found  a  difficulty  in  proceeding  with  it  which  I  had  never 
experienced  beforp.  In  spite  of  my  efforts  to  fix  my  thoughts  on  the  matter 
in  hand,  they  wandered  away,  with  the  strangest  persistency,  in  the  one 
direction  of  Sir  Percival  and  the  Count ;  and  all  the  interest  which  I  tried 
to  concentrate  on  my  journal,  centred,  instead,  in  that  private  interview 
between  them,  which  had  been  put  off  all  through  the  day,  and  which  was 
now  to  take  place  in  the  silence  and  solitude  of  the  night. 

In  this  perverse  state  of  my  mind,  the  recollection  of  what  had  passed 
since  the  morning  would  not  come  back  to  me ;  and  there  was  no  resource 
but  to  close  my  journal  and  to  get  away  from  it  for  a  little  while. 
■  I  opened  the  door  which  led  from  my  bedroom  into .  my  sitting-room* 
and,  having  passed  through,  pulled  it  to  again,  to  prevent  any  accident,  in 
case  of  draught,  with  the  candle  left  on  the  dressing-table.  My  sitting- 
room  window  was  wide  open ;  and  I  leaned  out,  listlessly,  to  look  at  the 
night. 

It  was  dark  and  quiet.    Neither  moon  nor  stars  were  visible.    ITicrs 


THK  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  247 

waa  a  fimell  like  rain  in  tbo  stilly  heayy  air ;  and  I  put  my  liand  out  of 
wmdow.    No.    The  rain  was  only  threatening ;  it  had  not  oome  yet^ 

I  remained  leaning  on  the  window-eill  for  nearly  a  quarter  of  an  hour, 
looking  out  ahsently  into  the  black  darkness,  and  hearing  nothing,  except, 
DOW  and  then,  the  voices  of  the  servants,  or  the  distant  sound  of  a  closing 
door,  in  the  lower  p&rt  of  the  house. 

Just  as  I  was  turning  away  wearily  from  the  window,  to  go  back  to  the 
bedroom,  and  make  a  second  attempt  to  complete  the  unfinished  entry  in 
my  journal,  I  smelt  the  odour  of  tobacco-smoke,  stealing  towards  me  on  the 
heavy  night  air.  The  next  moment  I  saw  a  tiny  red  spark  advancing 
from  the  farther  end  of  the  house  in  the  pitch  darkness.  I  heard  no  foot- 
steps, and  I  could  aee  nothing  but  the  spark.  It  travelled  along  in  the 
night ;  passed  the  window  at  which  I  was  standing ;  and  stopped  opposite 
my  bedroom  window,  inside  which  I  had  left  the  light  burning  on  the 
dressing-table. 

The  spark  remained  stationary,  for  a  moment,  then  moved  back  again  in 
the  direction  from  which  it  had  advanced.  As  I  followed  its  progress,  I 
saw  a  second  red  spark,  larger  than  the  £rst,  approaching  from  the  distance. 
The  two  met  together  in  the  darkness.  Kemembering  who  smoked 
sigaiettes,  and  who  smoked  cigars,  I  inferred,  immediately,  that  the  Ck)unt 
nad  oome  out  first  to  look  and  listen,  under  my  window,  and  that  Sir 
Percival  had  afterwards  joined  him.  They  must  both  have  been  walking 
on  the  lawn — or  I  should  certainly  have  heard  Sir  Percival's  heavy  footfall, 
though  the  Count's  soft  step  might  have  escaped  me,  even  on  the  gravel 
walk. 

I  waited  quietly  at  the  window,  certain  that  they  could  neither  of  them 
see  me,  in  the  darkness  of  the  room. 

**  What's  the  matter  ?"  I  heard  Sir  Percival  say,  in  a  low  voice,  •*  Why 
don't  you  come  in  and  sit  down  ?" 

"  I  want  to  see  the  light  out  of  that  window,"  replied  the  Count,  softly. 

"  What  harm  does  the  light  do  ?" 

"  It  shows  she  is  not  in  bed  yet.  She  is  sharp  enough  to  suspect  some- 
thing, and  bold  enough  to  come  down  stairs  and  listen,  if  she  can  get  the 
chance.    Patience,  Percival — ^patience." 

"  Humbug  I    You're  always  talking  of  patience." 

"  I  shall  talk  of  something  else  presently.  My  good  friend,  you  are  on 
the  edge  of  your  domestic  precipice ;  and  if  I  let  you  give  the  women  one 
other  chance,  on  my  sacred  word  of  honour  they  ^vill  push  you  over  it  !*' 

"  What  the  devil  do  you  mean  ?" 

"  We  ipill  come  to  our  explanations,  Percival,  when  tlio  light  is  out  of 
that  window,  an  d  when  I  have  had  one  little  look  at  the  rooms  on  each 
side  of  the  library,  and  a  peep  at  the  staircase  as  well.'* 

They  slowly  moved  away ;  and  the  rest  of  the  conversation  between  then* 


218  THE  WOMAN   IN  WHITE. 

(which  had  been  conducted,  thronghout,  in  tho  same  low  tones)  oeaacd  to 
be  audible.  It  was  no  matter.  I  had  heard  enough  to  determine  me  on 
justifying  the  Count's  opinion  of  my  sharpness  and  my  courage.  Before 
the  red  sparks  were  out  of  sight  in  the  darkness,  I  had  made  up  my  mind 
that  there  should  be  a  listener  when  those  two  men  sat  down  to  their  talk — 
and  that  the  listener,  in  spite  of  all  the  Count's  precautions  to  the  contrary, 
should  be  myself.  I  wanted  but  one  motive  to  sanction  the  act  to  my 
own  conscience,  and  to  give  me  courage  enough  for  performing  it ;  and 
that  motive  I  had.  Laura's  honour,  Laura's  happiness — Laura's  life  itself 
—might  depend  on  my  quick  ears,  and  my  fisiithful  memory,  to-night. 

I  had  heard  the  Count  say  that  he  meant  to  examine  the  rooms  on  each 
side  of  the  library,  and  the  staircase  as  well,  before  he  entered  on  any 
explanations  with  Sir  Percival.  This  expression  of  his  intentions  was 
necessarily  sufficient  to  inform  me  that  the  library  was  the  room  in  which 
he  proposed  that  the  conversation  should  take  place.  The  one  moment  of 
time  which  was  long  enough  to  bring  me  to  that  conclusion,  was  also  the 
moment  which  showed  me  a  means  of  baffling  his  precautions— or,  in  other 
words,  of  hearing  what  he  and  Sir  Percival  said  to  each  other,  without  the 
risk  of  descending  at  all  into  the  lower  regions  of  the  house. 

In  speaking  of  the  rooms  on  the  ground  floor,  I  have  mentioned  inci- 
dentally the  verandah  outside  them,  on  which  they  all  opened  by  means  of 
French  windows,  extending  from  the  cornice  to  the  floor.  The  top  of  this 
verandah  was  flat ;  the  rain-water  being  carried  off  from  it,  by  pipes,  into 
tanks  which  helped  to  supply  the  house.  On  the  narrow  leaden  roof, 
which  ran  along  past  the  bedrooms,  and  which  was  rather  less,  I  should 
think,  than  three  feet  below  the  sills  of  the  windows,  a  row  of  flower-pots 
was  ranged,  with  wide  intervals  between  each  pot ;  the  whole  being  pro- 
tected from  falling,  in  high  winds,  by  an  ornamental  iron  railing  along  the 
edge  of  the  roof. 

The  plan  which  had  now  occurred  to  me  was  to  get  out^  at  my  sitting- 
room  window,  on  to  this  roof ;  to  creep  along  noiselessly,  till  I  reached  that 
part  of  it  which  was  inunediately  over  the  library  window ;  and  to  crouch 
down  between  the  flower-pots,  with  my  ear  against  the  outer  railing.  If 
Sir  Percival  and  the  Count  sat  and  smoked  to-night,  as  I  had  seen  them 
sitting  and  smoking  many  nights  before,  with  their  chairs  close  at  the  open 
window,  and  their  feet  stretched  on  the  zinc  garden  seats  which  were 
placed  under  the  verandah,  every  word  they  said  to  each  other  above  a 
whisper  (and  no  long  conversation,  as  we  all  know  by  experience,  can  be 
carried  on  in  a  whisper)  must  inevitably  reach  my  ears.  If,  on  the  other 
hand,  they  chose,  to-night,  to  sit  far  back  inside  the  room,  then,  the 
chances  were,  that  I  should  hear  little  or  nothing ;  and,  in  that  case,  I 
must  run  the  far  more  serious  risk  of  trying  to  outwit  them  down  stairs. 

Strmgly  as  I  was  fortified  in  my  resolution  by  the  desperate  nature  of 


THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  24S 

our  situation,  1  hoped  most  fervently  that  I  might  escape  this  last 
emergency.  My  courage  was  only  a  woman's  courage,  after  all;  and 
it  was  very  near  to  failing  me,  when  I  thought  of  trusting  myself,  on  the 
ground  floor,  at  the  dead  of  night,  within  reach  of  ^ir  Percival  and  the 
Count, 

I  went  softly  back  to  my  bedroom,  to  try  the  safer  experiment  of  the 
verandah  roof,  first. 

A  complete  change  in  my  dress  was  imperatively  necessary,  for  many 
reasons.  I  took  off  my  silk  gown  to  begin  with,  because  the  slightest 
noise  from  it,  on  that  still  night,  might  have  betrayed  me.  I  next  removed 
the  white  and  cumbersome  parts  of  my  underclothing,  and  replaced  them  by 
a  petticoat  of  dark  flannel.  Over  this,  I  put  my  black  travelling  cloak,  and 
pulled  the  hood  on  to  my  head.  In  my  ordinary  evening  costume,  I  took 
lip  the  room  of  three  men  at  least.  In  my  present  dress,  when  it  was  held 
close  about  me,  no  man  could  have  passed  through  the  narrowest  spaces 
more  easily  than  I.  The  little  breadth  left  on  the  roof  of  the  verandah, 
between  the  flower-pots  on  one  side,  and  the  wall  and  the  windows  of  the 
house  on  the  other,  made  this  a  serious  consideration.  If  I  knocked 
anything  down,  if  I  made  the  least  noise,  who  could  say  what  the  con- 
sequences might  be  ? 

I  only  waited  to  put  the  matches  near  the  candle,  before  I  extinguished 
it,  and  groped  my  way  back  into  the  sitting-room.  I  locked  that  door,  as 
I  had  locked  my  bedroom  door — ^then  quietly  got  out  of  the  window,  and 
cautiously  set  my  feet  on  the  leaden  roof  of  the  verandah. 

My  two  rooms  were  at  the  inner  extremity  of  the  new  wing  of  the  house 
in  which  we  all  lived;  and  I  had  five  windows  to  pass,  before  I  could 
reach  the  position  it  was  necessary  to  take  up  immediately  over  the 
library.  The  first  window  belonged  to  a  spare  room,  which  was  empty. 
The  second  and  third  windows  belonged  to  Laura's  room.  The  fourth 
window  belonged  to  Sir  Percival's  room.  The  fifth,  belonged  to  the 
Countess's  room.  The  others,  by  which  it  was  not  necessary  for  me  to 
pass,  were  the  windows  of  the  Count's  dressing-room,  of  the  bath-room, 
and  of  the  second  empty  spare  room. 

Ko  sound  reached  my  ears — the  black  bUnding  darkness  of  the  night 
was  all  round  me  when  I  first  stood  on  the  verandah,  except  at  that  part 
of  it  which  Madame  Fosco's  window  overlooked.  There,  at  the  very  place 
above  the  library,  to  which  my  course  was  directed — ^there,  I  saw  a  gleam 
of  light !     The  Countess  was  not  yet  in  bed. 

It  was  too  late  to  draw  back ;  it  was  no  time  to  wait.  I  determined  to 
go  on  at  all  hazards,  and  trust  for  security  to  my  own  caution  and  to  the 
darkness  of  the  night.  ''  For  Laura's  sake  1"  I  Ihought  to  myself,  as  I  took 
the  first  step  forward  on  the  roof,  with  one  hand  holding  my  cloak  close 
round  me,  and  ijxe  other  groping  against  the  wall  of  the  house.    It  was 


250  tllB  WOMAD   IN  WHITE. 

better  to  briuh  close  by  the  wall,  than  to  risk  striking  my  feet  against  the 
ilower-pots  within  a  few  inches  of  me,  on  the  other  side. 

I  passed  the  dark  window  of  the  spare  room,  trying  the  leaden  roof,  at 
lach  step,  with  my  foot,  before  I  risked  resting  my  weight  on  it.  I  passed 
the  dark  windows  of  Laura  s  room  ("  God  bless  her  and  keep  her  to-night  T). 
I  passed  the  dark  window  of  Sir  Percival's  room.  Then,  I  waited  a  moment, 
Vnelt»down,  with  my  hands  to  support  mo ;  and  so  crept  to  my  position, 
under  the  protection  of  the  low  wall  between  the  bottom  of  the  lighted 
window  and  the  verandah  roof. 

When  I  ventured  to  look  up  at  the  window  itself,  I  found  that  the  top 
of  it  only  was  open,  and  that  the  blind  inside  was  drawn  down.  While  I 
was  looking,  I  saw  the  shadow  of  Madame  Fosco  pass  across  the  white 
field  of  the  blind — then  pass  slowly  back  again.  Thus  fiar,  she  could  not 
have  heard  me— -or  the  shadow  would  surely  have  stopped  at  the  blind, 
even  if  she  had  wanted  courage  enough  to  open  the  window,  and  look 
out? 

1  placed  myself  sideways  against  the  railing  of  the  verandah ;  first 
ascertaining,  by  touching  them,  the  position  of  the  flower-pots  on  either 
side  of  me.  There  was  room  enough  for  me  to  sit  between  them,  and  no 
more.  The  sweet-scented  leaves  of  the  flower  on  my  left  hand,  just 
brushed  my  cheek  as  I  lightly  rested  my  head  against  the  railing. 

The  first  sounds  that  reached  me  from  below  were  caused  by  the  opening 
or  closing  (most  probably  the  latter)  of  three  doors  in  succession — the 
doors,  no  doubt,  leading  into  the  hall,  and  into  the  rooms  on  each  side  of 
the  library,  which  the  Count  had  pledged  himself  to  examine.  The  first 
object  that  I  saw  was  the  red  spark  again  travelling  out  into  the  night, 
from  under  the  verandah;  moving  away  towards  my  window;  waiting 
a  moment ;  and  then  returning  to  the  place  from  which  it  had  set  out. 

"  The  devil  take  your  restlessness !  When  do  you  mean  to  sit  down  ?*' 
growled  Sir  Percival's  voice  beneath  me. 

"  Ouf  I  how  hot  it  is  I"  said  the  Count,  sighing  and  pufifing  wearily. 

His  exclamation  was  followed  by  the  scraping  of  the  garden  chairs  on  the 
tiled  pavement  under  the  verandah — the  welcome  sound  which  told  me 
they  were  going  to  sit  close  at  the  window  as  usual.  So  far,  the  chance 
was  mine.  The  clock  in  the  turret  struck  the  quarter  to  twelve  as  they 
settled  themselves  in  their  chairs.  I  heard  Madame  Fosco  through  the 
open  window,  yawning ;  and  saw  her  shadow  pass  once  more  across  the 
white  field  of  the  blind. 

Meanwhile,  Sir  Percival  and  the  Count  began  talking  together  below ; 

now  and  then  dropping  their  voices  a  little  lower  than  usual,  "but  never 

sinking  them  to  a  whisper.    The  strangeness  and  peril  of  my  situation,  the 

dread,  which  I  could  not  master,  of  Madame  Fosco's  Ughted  window,  made 

t  difficult,  almost  impoasiblo  for  mc,  at  first,  to  keep  my  presence  of  mind 


THK  WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  251 

and  to  fix  my  attention  solely  on  the  oonrersation  beneath.  For  somo 
minntes,  I  conld  only  succeed  in  gathering  the  general  substance  of  it.  1 
undentood  the  Count  to  say  that  the  one  window  alight  was  his  wife's ; 
that  the  ground  floor  of  the  house  was  quite  clear ;  and  that  they  might 
now  speak  to  each  other,  without  fear  of  accidents.  Sir  Perdval  merely 
answered  by  upbraiding  his  friend  with  having  unjustifiably  slighted  his 
wishes  and  neglected  his  interests,  all  through  the  day.  The  Count, 
thereupon,  defended  himself  by  declaring  that  he  had  been  beset  by  certain 
troubles  and  anxieties  which  had  absorbed  all  his  attention,  and  that  the 
only  safe  time  to  come  to  an  explanation,  was  a  time  when  they  could  feel 
certain  of  being  neither  interrupted  nor  overheard.  "  We  are  at  a  serious 
crisis  in  our  affikirs,  Percival,"  he  said ;  '*  and  if  we  are  to  decide  on  the 
future  at  all,  we  must  decide  secretly  to-night." 

That  sentence  of  the  Count's  was  the  first  which  my  attention  was 
ready  enough  to  master,  exactly  as  it  was  spoken.  From  this  pointy  with 
certain  breaks  and  interruptions,  my  whole  interest  fixed  breathlessly  on 
the  conversation ;  and  I  foIlowed.it  word  for  word. 

"  Onaa  F*  repeated  Sir  Percival.  **  It's  a  worse  crisis  than  you  think 
for,  I  can  tell  you." 

"So  I  should  suppose,  from  your  behayiour  for  the  last  day  or  two," 
returned  the  other,  coolly.  ^  But,  wait  a  little.  Before  we  advance  to 
what  I  do  noi  know,  let  us  be  quite  certain  of  what  I  do  know.  Let  us 
first  see  if  I  am  right  about  the  time  that  is  past^  before  I  make  any  pro- 
posal to  yon  for  the  time  that  is  to  come." 

"  Stop  till  I  get  the  brandy  and  water.    Have  some  yourself." 

"  Thank  yon,  Peraval.  The  cold  water  with  pleasure,  a  spoon,  and  the 
basin  of  sugar.     Ban  sacr^,  my  friend — nothing  more." 

**  Sugar  and  water,  for  a  man  of  your  age  1 — ^There  1  mix  your  sickly 
mess.    You  foreigners  are  all  alike." 

"  Kow,  listen,  Percival.  I  will  put  our  position  plainly  before  you,  as  I 
understand  it ;  and  you  shall  say  if  I  am  right  or  vm)ng.  You  and  I  both 
came  back  to  this  house  from  the  Continent,  with  our  affairs  very  seriously 
embarrassed " 

^Gut  it  short !  I  wanted  some  thousands,  and  you  some  hundreds — 
and,  without  the  money,  we  were  both  in  a  fair  way  to  go  to  the  dogs 
together.    There's  the  situation.    Make  what  you  can  of  it.    Go  on." 

"  Well,  Percival,  in  your  own  soHd  English  words,  you  wanted  some 
thousands  and  I  wanted  some  hundreds ;  and  the  only  way  of  getting  them 
was  for  you  to  raise  the  money  for  your  own  necessity  (with  a  small 
margin,  beyond,  for  my  poor  little  hundreds),  by  the  help  of  your  wife 
What  did  I  tell  you  about  your  wife  on  our  way  to  England  ?  and  what  did 
I  tell  you  again,  when  we  had  come  here,  and  when  I  had  seen  for  mysell 
the  sort  of  woman  Miss  Halcombe  was  T* 


252  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

**  How  should  I  know  ?  You  talked  nineteen  to  the  dozen,  I  8upxx)8e, 
just  as  usual." 

<*  I  said  this :  Human  ingenuity,  my  friend,  has  hitherto  only  discovered 
two  ways  in  which  a  man  can  manage  a  woman.  One  way  is  to  knock  her 
down — a  method  largely  adopted  by  the  brutal  lower  orders  of  the  people, 
but  utterly  abhorrent  to  the  refined  and  educated  classes  above  them.  The 
other  way  (much  longer,  much  more  difficult,  but,  in  the  end,  not  less  cer- 
tain) is  never  to  accept  a  provocation  at  a  woman's  hands.  It  holds  with 
animals,  it  holds  with  children,  and  it  holds  with  women,  who  are  nothing 
but  children  grown  up.  Quiet  resolution  is  the  one  quality  the  animals, 
the  children,  and  the  women  all  fail  in.  If  they  can  once  shake  this  supe- 
rior quality  in  their  master,  they  get  the  better  of  him.  If  they  can  never 
succeed  in  disturbing  it,  he  gets  the  better  of  them,  1  said  to  you,  Eemember 
that  plain  truth,  when  you  want  your  wife  to  help  you  to  the  money.  I 
said.  Remember  it  doubly  and  trebly,  in  the  presence  of  your  wife's  sister. 
Miss  Halcombe.  Have  you  remembered  it?  Not  once,  in  all  the  compli- 
cations that  have  twisted  themselves  about  us  in  this  house.  Every  pro- 
vocation that  your  wife  and  her  sister  could  o£fer  to  you,  you  instantly 
accepted  from  them.  Your  mad  temper  lost  the  signature  to  the  deed,  lost 
the  ready  money,  set  Miss  Halcombe  writing  to  the  lawyer  for  the  first 
time " 

"  First  time  ?    Has  she  written  again  ?" 

"  Yes ;  she  has  written  again  to-day." 

A  chair  fell  on  the  pavement  of  the  verandah — fell  with  a  crash,  as  if  it 
had  been  kicked  down. 

It  was  well  for  me  that  the  Count's  revelation  roused  Sir  Fercival's  anger 
as  it  did.  On  hearing  that  I  had  been  once  more  discovered,  I  started  so 
that  the  railing  against  which  I  leaned,  cracked  again.  Had  he  followed 
me  to  the  inn  ?  Did  he  infer  that  I  must  have  given  my  letters  to  Fanny, 
when  I  told  him  I  had  none  for  the  post-bag  ?  Even  if  it  was  so,  how 
could  he  have  examined  the  letters,  when  they  had  gone  straight  from  my 
hand  to  the  bosom  of  the  girl's  dress  ? 

"  Thank  your  lucky  star,"  I  heard  the  Count  say  next,  "  that  you  havo 
me  in  the  house,  to  undo  the  harm,  as  fast  as  you  do  it  Thank  your 
lucky  star  that  I  said.  No,  when  you  were  mad  enough  to  talk  of  turning 
the  key  to*day  on  Miss  Halcombe,  as  you  turned  it,  in  your  mischievous 
folly,  on  your  wife.  Where  are  your  eyes  ?  Can  you  look  at  Miss  Hal- 
combe, and  not  see  that  she  has  the  foresight  and  the  resolution  of  a  man? 
With  that  woman  for  my  friend,  I  would  snap  these  fingers  of  mine  at  the 
world.  With  that  woman  for  my  enemy,  I,  with  all  my  brains  and  expe- 
rience— I,  Fosco,  cunning  as  the  devil  himself,  as  you  have  told  me  a 
hundred  times — I  walk,  in  your  English  phrase,  upon  egg-shells !  And 
this  grand  creature — ^I  drink  her  health  in  my  sugar  8:id  water — this  grand 


THK  WOMAN   IN  WHITE..  253 

ercataie,  who  stands  in  the  strength  of  her  love  and  her  courage,  finn  as  a 
rock  between  us  two,  and  that  poor  flimsy  pretty  blonde  wife  of  youre — 
this  magnificent  woman,  whom  I  admire  with  all  my  soul,  thoucrh  I  oppose 
her  in  your  interests  and  in  miae,  you  drive  to  extremities,  as  if  she  was  no 
•harper  and  no  bolder  than  the  rest  of  her  sex.  Percival  I  Percival  I  you 
deserve  to  fail,  and  you  Jiave  failed.'* 

There  was  a  pause.  I  write  the  villain's  words  about  myself,  because  I 
mean  to  remember  them ;  because  I  hopo  yet  for  the  day  when  I  may  speak 
ont  once  for  all  in  his  presence,  and  cast  them  back,  one  by  one,  in  his 
teeth. 
Sir  Percival  was  the  first  to  break  the  silence  again. 
"Yes, yes;  bully  and  bluster  as  much  as  you  like,"  he  said, sulkily ; 
"the difficulty  about  the  money  is  not  the  only  difficulty.  You  would  bo 
for  taking  strong  measures  with  the  women,  yourself — ^if  you  knew  as  much 
as  I  do." 

**  We  will  come  to  that  second  difficulty,  all  in  good  time,"  rejoined  the 
Count.  **  You  may  confuse  yourself,  Percival,  as  much  as  you  please,  but 
you  shall  not  confuse  me.  Let  the  questiou  of  the  money  be  settled  first. 
Have  I  convinced  your  obstinacy?  have  1  shown  you  that  your  temper 
will  not  let  you  help  yourself? — Or  must  I  go  back,  and  (as  you  put  it  in 
your  dear  straightforward  English)  bully  and  bluster  a  littie  more?" 

"  Pooh  I  It's  easy  enough  to  grumble  at  me.  Say  what  is  to  be  done — 
that's  a  little  harder." 

"  Is  it?    Bah  1    This  is  what  is  to  be  done :    You  give  up  all  direction 
in  the  business  from  to-night ;  you  leave  ir,  for  the  future,  in  my  hands 
only.    I  am  talking  to  a  Practical  British  man — ^ha  ?     Well,  Practical,  will 
that  do  for  you  ?" 
*'  What  do  you  propose,  if  I  leave  it  all  to  you  ?" 
"  Answer  me  first.    Is  it  to  be  in  my  hands  or  not  ?" 
**  Say  it  is  in  your  hands — ^what  then  ?" 

"  A  few  questions,  Percival,  to  begin  with.  I  must  wait  a  little,  yet,  to 
let  circumstances  guide  me ;  and  I  must  know,  in  every  possible  way,  what 
those  circumstances  are  likely  to  be.  There  is  no  time  to  lose.  I  have 
told  you  already  that  Miss  Halcombe  has  written  to  the  lawyer  to-day,  for 
the  second  time." 
**  How  did  you  find  it  out  ?  What  did  she  say  ?" 
"If  I  told  you,  Percival,  we  should  only  come  back  at  the  end  to  where 
we  are  now.  Enough  that  I  have  found  it  out — and  the  finding  has  caused 
that  trouble  and  anxiety  which  made  me  so  inaccessible  to  you  all  through 
to-day.  Now,  to  refresh  my  memory  about  your  aifairs — it  is  some  time 
since  I  talked  them  over  with  you.  The  money  has  been  raised,  in  the 
absence  of  your  wife's  signature,  by  means  of  bills  at  three  months-  - 
mised  at  a  cost  that  makes  my  poverty-stricken  foreign  hair  stand  on  end 


2o4  THE  WOMAN   IN    WHITE. 

to  tliink  of  it  I    When  the  bills  are  doe,  is  there  really  and  truly  no  earthly 
way  of  paying  them  but  by  the  help  of  your  wife  P* 

"  None." 

**  What !    You  have  no  money  at  the  bankers !" 

"  A  few  hundreds,  when  I  Want  as  many  thousands." 

•*  Have  you  no  other  security  to  borrow  upon  ?" 

**  Not  a  shred.** 

"  What  have  you  actually  got  with  your  wife,  at  the  present  moment  ?" 

**  Nothing  but  the  interest  of  her  twenty  thousand  pounds— barely  enough 
to  pay  our  daily  expenses." 

**  What  do  you  expect  from  your  wife  ?" 

''Three  thousand  a  year,  when  her  uncle  dies." 

**  A  fine  fortune,  Perdval.    What  sort  of  a  man  is  this  uncle  ?    Old  ?" 

"No — ^neither  old  nor  young." 

"A  good-tempered,  freely-living  man?  Married?  No— I  think  my 
wife  told  me,  not  married." 

"  Of  course  not.  If  he  was  married,  and  had  a  son.  Lady  Glyde  wonU 
not  be  next  heir  to  the  property.  1*11  tell  you  what  he  is.  He's  a  maudlin, 
twaddling,  selfish  fool,  and  bores  everybody  who  ccmies  near  him  abont  the 
!itate  of  his  health." 

"  Men  of  that  sort,  Percival,  live  long,  and  marry  malevolently  when  you 
; least  expect  it.    I  don't  give  you  much,  my  friend,  for  your  chance  of  the 
three  thousand  a  year.    Is  there  nothing  more  that  comes  to  you  from  yonr 
wife? 
.     "Notliing." 

"  Absolutely  nothing  ?*' 

"Absolutely  nothing— except  in  case  of  her  death." 

**  Aha !  in  the  case  of  her  death." 

There  was  another  pause.  The  Count  moved  from  the  verandah  to  the 
gravel  walk  outside.  I  knew  that  he  had  moved,  by  his  voice.  "  The  rain 
has  oome  at  last,"  I  heard  him  say.  It  had  come.  The  state  of  my  cloak 
showed  that  it  had  been  falling  thicklv  for  some  little  time. 

The  Ooimt  went  back  under  the  verandah — ^I  heard  the  chair  creak 
beneath  his  weight  as  he  sat  down  in  it  again. 

"  Well,  Percival,"  he  said ;  "  and,  in  the  case  of  Lady  GMyde's  death, 
what  do  you  get  then  ?" 

"  If  she  leaves  no  children—— ' 

"  Which  she  is  likely  to  do P* 

"  Which  she  is  not  in  the  least  likely  to  do        " 

«  Yes?** 

*  Why,  then  I  get  her  twenty  thousand  pounds.**  ^    3^ 

"P^ddown?** 

"Paid  down." 


TlIK  WOMAN   IN    WHITK.  265 

Tbey  were  silent  once  more.  As  their  voices  ceased,  Madame"  Fosco's 
shadow  darkened  the  hlind  again.  Instead  of  passing  this  time,  it  remained, 
for  a  moment,  quite  stilL  I  saw  her  fingers  steal  round  the  comer  of  the 
blind,  and  draw  it  on  one  side.  The  dim  white  outline  of  her  face,  look- 
ing out  straight  over  me,  appeared  hehind  the  window.  I  kept  still, 
shrouded  from  head  to  foot  in  my  hlack  cloak.  The  rain,  which  was  fast 
wetting  me,  dripped  over  the  glass,  hlurred  it,  and  prevented  her  from  see- 
ing anything.  **  More  rain  !**  I  heard  her  say  to  herself.  She  dropped  the 
blind — and  I  breathed  again  freely. 

The  talk  went  on  below  me  ;  the  Count  resuming  it,  this  time. 

**  Perdval  I  do  you  care  about  your  wife  F* 

"  Fosco !  that's  rather  a  downright  question." 

**  I  am  a  downright  man ;  and  I  repeat  it." 

"  Why  the  devil  do  you  look  at  me  in  that  way  ?" 

•*  You  won't  answer  me?  Well,  then ;  let  us  say  your  wife  dies  before 
the  sunmer  is  out ** 

**  Drop  it,  Fosco  r 

•*  Let  us  say  your  wife  dies ** 

"Drop  it>  I  tell  you!" 

"In  that  case,  you  would  gain  twenty  thousand  pounds ;  and  you  would 

"  I  should  lose  the  chance  of  three  thousand  a  year." 

**  The  remote  chance,  Percival — ^the  remote  chance  only.  And  you  want 
money,  at  once.    In  your  position,  the  gain  is  certain — the  loss  doubtful." 

"  Speak  for  yourself  as  well  as  for  me.  Some  of  the  money  I  want  has 
been  borrowed  for  you.  And  if  you  come  to  gain,  my  wife's  death  would 
be  ten  thousand  pounds  in  your  wife's  pocket.  Sharp  as  you  are,  you 
seem  to  have  conveniently  forgotten  Madame  Fosco's  legacy.  Don't  look  at 
me  in  that  way !  I  won't  have  it !  What  with  your  looks  and  your  ques- 
tions, upon  my  soul,  you  make  my  flesh  creep !" 

''Your  flesh?  Docs  flesh  mean  conscience  in  English?  I  speak  of 
your  wife's  death,  as  I  speak  of  a  possibility.  Why  not  ?  The  respectable 
lawyers  who  scribble-scrabble  your  deeds  and  your  wills,  look  the  deaths  of 
living  people  in  the  face.  Do  lawyers  make  your  flesh  creep?  Why 
should  I  ?  It  is  my  business  to-night,  to  clear  up  your  position  beyond 
the  possibility  of  mistake — and  I  have  now  done  it.  Here  is  your  position. 
If  your  wife  lives,  you  pay  those  bills  with  her  signature  to  the  parchment. 
If  your  wife  dies,  you  pay  them  with  her  death." 

As  he  spoke,  the  light  in  Madame  Fosco's  room  was  extinguished ;  and 
the  whole  second  floor  of  the  house  was  now  sunk  in  darkness. 

"  Talk !  talk  I"  grumbled  Sir  Percival.  **  One  would  think,  to  hear  you, 
that  my  wife's  signature  to  the  deed  was  got  already." 

**  You  have  left  the  matter  in  my  hands,"  retorted  the  Count  j  **  and  ' 


256  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITS. 

have  more  than  two  months  before  me  to  turn  round  in.  Say  no  mors 
iilxjut  it,  if  you  please,  for  the  present.  "When  the  bills  are  due,  you  wii 
see  for  yourself  if  my  *  talk !  talk !'  is  worth  something,  or  if  it  is  not. 
And  now,  Percival,  having  done  with  the  money-matters  for  to-night,  I 
Clin  place  my  attention  at  your  disposal,  if  you  wish  to  consult  me  on  that 
second  dilEculty  which  has  mixed  itself  up  with  our  little  embarrassments, 
and  which  has  so  altered  you  for  the  worse,  that  I  hardly  know  you  again. 
Speak,  my  friend — ^and  pardon  me  if  I  shock  your  fiery  nation^d  tastes  by 
mixing  myself  a  second  glass  of  sugar  and  water." 

"  It's  very  well  to  say  speak,"  replied  Sir  Percival,  in  a  fai  more  quiet 
and  more  polite  tone  than  he  had  yet  adopted ;  '*  but  it's  not  so  easy  to 
know  how  to  begin.'* 

"  Shall  I  help  you  ?"  suggested  the  Count.  **  Shall  I  give  this  private 
difficulty  of  yours  a  name  ?    What,  if  I  call  it — Anne  Catherick  ?" 

"  Look  here,  Fosco,  you  and  I  have  known  each  other  for  a  long  time ; 
and,  if  you  have  helped  me  out  of  one  or  two  scrapes  before  this,  I  have 
done  the  best  I  could  to  help  you  in  return,  as  far  as  money  would  go. 
We  liave  made  as  many  friendly  sacrifices,  on  both  sides,  as  men  could ; 
but  we  have  had  our  secrets  from  each  other,  of  course — haven't  we  ?** 

"  You  have  had  a  secret  from  wie,  Percival.  There  is  a  skeleton  in  your 
cupboard  here  at  Blackwater  Park,  that  has  peeped  out,  in  these  last  few 
days,  at  other  people  besides  yourself." 

'*  Well,  suppose  it  has.  If  it  doesn't  concern  you,  you  needn't  be  curious 
about  it,  need  you  ?" 

** Do  I  look  curious  about  it?" 

"  Yes,  you  do." 

"Sol  sol  my  fiace  speaks  the  truth,  then?  What  an  immense  founda- 
tion of  good  there  must  be  in  the  nature  of  a  man  who  arrives  at  my  age, 
and  whose  face  has  not  yet  lost  the  habit  of  speaking  the  truth ! — Come, 
Glyde !  let  us  be  candid  one  with  the  other.  This  secret  of  yours  has 
sought  me:  1  have  not  sought  it.  Let  us  say  I  am  curious — do  you  ask 
me,  as  your  old  friend,  to  respect  your  secret,  and  to  leave  it,  once  for  all,  in 
your  own  keeping  ?" 

"  Yes — that's  just  what  I  do  ask." 

"  Then  my  curiosity  is  at  an  end.    It  dies  in  me,  from  this  moment." 

**  Do  you  really  mean  that  ?" 

"  What  makes  you  doubt  me  ? 

"  I  have  had  some  experience,  Fosco,  of  your  roundabout  ways ;  and  I 
am  not  so  sure  that  you  won't  worm  it  out  of  me  after  all." 

The  chair  below  suddenly  creaked  again — ^I  felt  the  trellis-work  pillar 
under  me  shake  from  top  to  bottom.  The  Count  had  started  to  his  feet 
and  had  struck  it  with  his  hand,  in  indignation. 

"Percival!   Percival!"   he  cried,  passionately,  **do  yoi?  know  me  no 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WHITE.  267 

better  tlian  that?  Has  all  yoar  experience  shown  yon  uothing  of  my 
character  yet  ?  I  am  a  man  of  the  antique  type  I  I  am  capable  of  the 
most  exalted  acts  of  virtue — when  I  have  the  chance  of  performing  them. 
It  has  been  the  misfortune  of  my  life  that  I  have  had  few  chances.  My 
conception  of  friendship  is  sublime !  Is  it  my  fault  that  your  skeleton  hns 
peeped  out  at  me  ?  Why  do  I  confess  my  curiosity  ?  You  poor  superficial 
Englishman,  it  is  to  magnify  my  own  self-KX>ntrol.  I  could  draw  your 
secret  out  of  you,  if  I  liked,  as  I  draw  this  finger  out  of  the  palm  of  my 
knd— you  know  I  could  !  But  you  have  appealed  to  my  friendship ;  and 
the  duties  of  friendship  are  sacred  to  me.  See  I  I  trample  my  base  curiosity 
under  my  feet.  My  exalted  sentiments  lift  me  abo/e  it.  Eecognise  them, 
Percival  ]  imitate  them,  Percival !     Shake  hands — I  forgive  you." 

His  voice  faltered  over  the  last  words— faltered,  as  if  he  was  actually 
shedding  tears ! 

Sir  Percival  confusedly  attempted  to  excuse  himself.  But  the  Ck>ui:t 
was  too  magnanimous  to  listen  to  him. 

"  No !"  he  said.  "  When  my  friend  has  wounded  me,  I  can  pardon  him 
without  apologies.    Tell  me,  in  plain  words,  do  you  want  my  help  ?** 

"Yes,  badly  enough." 

"And  you  can  ask  for  it  without  compromising  yourself?** 

"  I  can  try,  at  any  rate." 

"  Try,  then." 

"  Well,  this  is  how  it  stands : — ^I  told  yon,  to-day,  that  1  had  done  my 
best  to  find  Anne  Gathcrick,  and  failed.*' 

*  Yes ;  you  did." 

"  Tosco !  I'm  a  lost  man,  if  I  donH  find  her." 

"  Ha !     Is  it  so  serious  as  that  ?■* 

A  little  stream  of  light  travelled  out  under  the  verandah,  and  fell  over 
the  gravel- walk.  The  Count  had  taken  the  lamp  from  the  inner  part  of 
the  room,  to  see  his  friend  clearly  by  the  light  of  it. 

"Yes!"  he  said.  **  Your  face  speaks  the  truth  this  time.  Serious, 
indeed — as  serioutf  as  the  money  matters  themselves.'* 

"  More  serious.    As  true  as  I  sit  here,  more  serious !" 

The  light  disappeared  again,  and  the  talk  went  on. 

"  I  showed  you  the  letter  to  my  wife  that  Anne  Catherick  hid  in  the 
sand,"  Sir  Percival  continued.  "  There's  no  boasting  in  that  letter,  Fosco 
— she  does  know  the  Secret." 

"  Say  as  little  as  possible,  Percival,  in  my  presence,  of  the  Secret.  Does 
she  know  it  from  you  ?*' 

"  No ;  from  her  mother." 

**  Two  women  in  possession  of  your  private  mind — ^bad,  bad,  bad,  my 
friend !  One  question  here,  before  we  go  any  farther.  The  motive  of  your 
sbitting  up  the  daughter  in  the  asylum,  is  now  plain  enough  to  me — ^but 

-      A 


258  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

tl)o  mannGr  of  her  escape  is  not  quite  so  clear.  Do  you  suspect  the  people 
in  charge  of  her  of  closing  their  eyes  purposely,  at  the  instance  of  some 
enemy  who  could  afford  to  make  it  worth  their  while  ?*' 

*'  No ;  she  was  the  best-behaved  patient  they  had — ^and,  like  fools,  they 
trusted  her.  She's  just  mad  (mough  to  be  shut  up,  and  just  sane  enough 
to  ruin  me  when  she's  at  large — ^if  you  understand  that  ?" 

**  I  do  understand  it.  Now,  Percival,  come  at  once  to  the  point ;  and 
then  I  shall  know  what  to  do.  Where  is  the  danger  of  yom*  position  at  the 
present  moment  ?^ 

**  Anne  Gatherick  is  in  this  neighbourhood,  and  in  communication  with 
Lady  Glyde — ^there's  the  danger,  plain  enough.  Who  can  read  the  letter 
she  hid  in  the  sand,  and  not  see  that  my  wife  is  in  possession  of  the  secret, 
leny  it  as  she  may  ?" 

**  One  moment,  Percival.  If  Lady  Glyde  does  know  the  secret,  she  must 
xnow  also  that  it  is  a  compromising  secret  for  you.  As  your  wife,  surely  it 
is  her  interest  to  keep  it  ?" 

*'  Is  it  ?  I'm  coming  to  that.  It  might  be  her  interest  if  she  cared  two 
straws  about  me.  But  I  happen  to  be  an  encumbrance  in  the  way  of 
another  man.  She  was  in  love  with  him,  before  she  married  me— she's  in 
love  with  him  now— 'in  infernal  vagabond  of  a  drawing-master,  named 
Hartright." 

**  My  dear  fi-iend  ^  what  is  there  extraordinary  in  that  ?  They  are  all  in 
love  with  some  other,  man.  Who  gets  the  first  of  a  woman's  heart?  In 
ill  my  experience  I  have  never  yet  met  with  the  man  who  was  Number 
One.  Number  Two,  sometimes.  Number  Three,  Pour,  Five,  often. 
Number  One,  never !    He  exists,  of  course — ^but,  I  have  not  met  with  him." 

"  Wait!  I  haven't  done  yet.  Who  do  you  think  helped  Anne  Catherick 
to  get  the  start,  when  the  people  from  the  madhouse  were  after  her  ? 
Hartright.  Who  do  you  think  saw  her  again  in  Cumberland  ?  Hartrigfat, 
Both  times,  he  spoke  to  her  alone.  Stopl  don't  interrupt  me.  The 
scoundrel's  as  sweet  on  my  wife,  as  she  is  on  him.  He  knows  the  secret, 
and  she  knows  the  secret.  Once  let  them  both  get  together  again,  and  its 
her  interest  and  his  interest  to  turn  their  information  against  me." 

"  Gently,  Percival — ^gently  ?  Are  you  insensible  to  the  virtue  of  Lady 
Glyde?" 

*'  That  for  the  virtue  of  Lady  Glyde  I  I  believe  in  nothing  about  her 
but  her  money.  Don't  you  see  how  the  case  stands  ?  She  might  be  harm- 
less enough  by  herself;  but  if  she  and  that  vagabond  Hartright ** 

**  Yes,  yes,  I  see.    Where  is  Mr.  Hartright  ?" 

"  Out  of  the  country.  If  he  means  to  keep  a  whole  skin  on  his  benefit  I 
recommend  him  not  to  come  back  in  a  hurry." 

"  Are  you  sure  he  is  out  of  the  country  ?" 

**  Certain.    1  had  him  watched  from  the  time  he  left  Cumberland  to  ttit 


THE   WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  259 

time  he  sailed.  Oh,  IVe  been  careful,  I  can  tell  you !  Anne  Catherick 
lived  with  some  people  at  a  farm-house  near  Limmeridge.  I  went  there, 
myself,  after  she  had  given  me  the  slip,  and  made  sure  that  they  knew 
nothing.  I  gave  her  mother  a  form  of  letter  to  write  to  Miss  Halcombe, 
exonerating  me  from  any  bad  motive  in  putting  her  under  restraint.  I*ve 
spent,  I'm  afraid  to  say  how  much,  in  trying  to  trace  her.  And,  in  spite  of 
it  all,  she  turns  up  here,  and  escapes  me  on  my  own  property  I  How  do  J 
know  who  else  may  see  her,  who  else  may  speak  to  h^  ?  That  prying 
scoundrel,  Hartrigbt,  may  come  back  without  my  knowing  it,  and  may 
make  use  of  her  to-morrow—" 

"  Not  he,  Percival !  While  I  am  on  the  spot,  and  while  that  woman  is 
in  the  neighbourhood,  I  will  answer  for  our  laying  hands  on  her,  before  Mr. 
Hartright — even  if  he  does  come  back.  I  see!  yes,  yes,  I  seel  The 
finding  of  Anne  Catherick  is  the  first  necessity :  make  your  mind  easy 
about  the  rest.  Your  wife  is  here,  under  your  thumb  ;  Miss  Halcombo  is 
inseparable  from  her,  and  is,  therefore,  under  your  thumb  also ;  and  Mr. 
Hartright  is  out  of  the  country.  This  invisible  Anne  of  yours,  is  all  we 
have  to  think  of  for  the  present.    You  have  made  your  inquiries  ?" 

"  Yes.  I  have  been  to  her  mother ;  I  have  ransacked  the  village — and 
fill  to  no  purpose." 

"Is  her  mother  to  be  depended  on?*' 

«  Yes." 

"  She  has  told  your  secret  once." 

"  She  won't  tell  it  again." 

«  Why  not  ?  Are  her  own  interests  concerned  in  keeping  it,  as  well  aa 
yours?" 

"  Yes — deeply  concerned." 

"  I  am  glad  to  hear  it,  Percival,  Tor  your  sake.  Don't  be  discouraged, 
my  Mend.  Our  money  matters,  as  I  told  you,-  leave  me  plenty  of  time  to 
turn  round  in;  and  I  may  search  for  Anne  Catherick  to-morrow  to  better 
purpose  than  you.    i3ne  last  question,  before  we  go  to  bed." 

«  What  is  it?" 

"  It  is  this.  When  I  went  to  the  boat-house  to  tell  Lady  Glyde  that  the 
little  difficulty  of  her  signature  was  put  off,  accident  took  me  there  in  time 
to  see  a  strange  woman  parting  in  a  very  suspicious  manner  from  your 
wife.  But  accident  did  not  bring  me  near  enough  to  see  this  same  woman's 
&ce  plainly.  I  must  know  how  to  recognise  our  invisible  Anne.  What  is 
she  like  ?" 

"Like?  Come  1  I'll  tell  you  in  two  words.  She's  a  sickly  likeness  of 
my  wife." 

The  chair  creaked,  and  the  pillar  shook  once  more.  The  €ount  was  on 
Ms  feet  again — ^this  time  in  astonishment. 

*<  What  I !  1"  he  exclaimed,  eagerly. 


260  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHI'fK. 

**  Ifancy  my  wife,  after  a  bad  illness,  with  a  touch  of  something  wivng 
in  her  head — and  there  is  Anne  Catherick  for  yon,"  answered  Sir  Perdval. 

**  Arc  they  related  to  each  other  ?" 

"  Not  a  bit  of  it." 

"And  yet,  so  like?" 

**  Yes,  so  like.    Wliat  are  you  laughing  about  ?" 

There  was  no  answer,  and  no  sound  of  any  kind.  The  Count  was 
^aughing  in  his  smooth  silent  internal  way. 

"  What  are  you  laughing  about  ?"  reiterated  Sir  Percival. 

"  Perhaps,  at  my  own  fancies,  my  good  friend.  Allow  me  my  Italian 
humour — do  I  not  come  of  the  illustrious  nation  which  invented  tht 
exhibition  of  Punch  ?  Well,  well,  well,  I  shall  know  Anne  Catherick  when 
I  see  her — and  so  enough  for  to-night.  Make  your  mind  easy,  Percival. 
Sleep,  my  son,  the  sleep  of  the  just ;  and  see  what  I  will  do  for  you,  when 
daylight  comes  to  help  us  both.  I  have  my  projects  and  my  plans,  here  in 
my  big  head.  You  shall  pay  those  bills  and  find  Anne  Catherick — ^my 
sacred  word  of  honour  on  it,  but  you  shall  I  Am  I  a  friend  to  be  treasured 
in  the  best  corner  of  your  heart,  or  am  I  not  ?  Am  I  worth  those  loans  of 
money  which  you  so  delicately  reminded  me  of  a  little  while  since  ?  What- 
ever you  do,  never  wound  me  in  my  sentiments  any  more.  Becognise 
them,  Percival !  imitate  them,  Percival  1  I  forgive  you  again ;  I  shake 
hands  again.    Good  night !"  ^ 

Not  another  word  was  spoken.  I  heard  the  Count  close  the  library 
door.  I  heard  Sir  Percival  barring  up  the  window-shuttbrs.  It  had  been 
raining,  raining  all  the  time.  I  was  cramped  by  my  position,  and  chilled 
to  the  bones.  When  I  first  tried  to  move,  the  effort  was  so  painful  to  me, 
that  I  was  obliged  to  desist.  I  tried  a  second  time,  and  succeeded  in  rising 
to  my  knees  on  the  wet  roof. 

As  I  crept  to  the  wall,  and  raised  myself  against  it,  I  looked  back,  and 
saw  the  window  of  the  Count's  dressing-joom  gleam  into  lieht.  Mv  sink- 
ing courage  flickered  up  in  me  again,  and  kept  my  eyes  fixea  on  his 
window,  as  I  stole  my  way  back,  step  by  step,  past  the  wall  of  the  house. 

The  clock  struck  the  quarter  after  one,  when  I  laid  my  hands  on  the 
window-sill  of  my  own  room.  I  had  seen  nothing  and  heard  nothing 
which  could  lead  me  to  suppose  that  my  retreat  had  been  discovered. 

X. 

•  •  ♦  •  • 

June  20Tn.— Eight  o'clock.  The  sun  is  shining  in  a  clear  sky.  I  have 
not  been  near  my  bed — ^I  have  not  once  closed  my  weary,  wakeful  eyes. 
"IJtem  the  same  window  at  which  I  looked  out  into  the  darkness  of  lai»t 
"i^t,  I  look  out,  now,  at  the  bright  stillness  of  the  morning. 


THK  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  261 

I  oouiit  Uie  hours  that  have  passed  sinoe  I  escaped  to  the  shelter  of  thU 
nx)m,  by  my  own  sensations — ^and  those  hours  seem  like  weekE. 

How  short  a  time,  and  yet  how  long  to  me — since  I  sank  dDwn  in  the 
darkness,  here,  on  the  floor ;  drenched  to  the  skin,  cramped  in  every  limb, 
cold  to  the  bones,  a  useless,  helpless,  panic-stricken  creature. 

I  hardly  know  when  I  roused  myself.  1  hardly  know  when  I  groped 
my  way  back  to  the  bedroom,  and  lighted  the  candle,  and  searched  (with  a 
strange  ignorance,  at  first,  of  where  to  look  for  them)  for  dry  clothes  to 
warm  me.  The  doiog  of  these  things  is  in  my  mind,  but  not  the  time 
when  they  were  done. 

Can  I  even  remember  when  the  chilled,  cramped  feeling  left  me,  and  the 
throbbing  heat  came  in  its  place  ? 

Surely  it  was  before  the  sun  rose  ?  Yes ;  I  heard  the  clock  strike  three. 
I  remember  the  time  by  the  sudden  brightness  and  clearness,  the  feverish 
strain  and  excitement  of  all  my  faculties  which  came  with  it.  I  remember 
my  resolution  to  control  myself,  to  wait  patiently  hour  after  hour,  till  the 
chance  offered  of  removing  Laura  from  this  horrible  place,  without  the 
danger  of  immediate  discovery  and  pursuit.  I  remember  the  persuasion 
settling  itself  in  my  mind  that  the  words  those  two  men  had  said  to  each 
other,  would  furnish  us,  not  only  with  our  justification  for  leaving  the 
house,  but  with  our  weapons  of  defence  against  them  as  well.  I  recal  the 
impulse  that  awakened  in  me  to  preserve  those  words  in  writing,  exactly  as 
they  were  spoken,  while  the  time  was  my  own,  and  while  my  memory 
vividly  retained  them.  All  this  I  reniember  plainly :  there  is  no  confusion 
in  my  head  yet.  The  coming  in  here  from  the  bedroom,  with  my  pen  and 
ink  and  paper,  before  sunrise — ^the  sitting  down  at  the  widely  opened 
window  to  get  all  the  air  I  could  to  cool  me — the  ceaseless  writing,  laster 
and  faster,  hotter  and  hotter,  driving  on  more  and  more  wakefully,  all 
through  the  dreadful  interval  before  the  house  was  astir  again — how  clearly 

recal  it,  from  the  b^inning  by  candlelight,  to  the  end  on  the  page  before 
this,  in  the  sunshine  of  the  new  day ! 

Why  do  I  sit  here  still  ?  Why  do  I  weary  my  hot  eyes  and  my  burning 
head  by  writing  more  ?  Why  not  lie  down  and  rest  myself,  and  try  to 
queneh  the  fever  that  consumes  me,  iu  sleep  ? 

I  dare  not  attempt  it.    A  fear  beyond  all  other  fears  has  got  possession 

of  me.    I  am  a&aid  of  this  heat  that  parches  my  skin.    I  am  afraid  of  the 

creeping  and  throbbing  that  I  feel  in  my  head.    If  I  lie  down  now,  how 

do  I  know  that  I  may  have  the  sense  and  the  strength  to  rise  again? 

Oh,  the  rain,  the  rain — the  cruel  rain  that  chilled  me  last  night  I 
*  *  *  •  ♦ 

Nine  o'clock.  Was"  it  nine  struck,  or  eight?  Nine,  surely?  I  am 
shivering  again — shivering,  from  head  to  foot,  in  the  summer  air.  Have 
I  been  sitting  here  asleep  ?    I  don't  know  what  I  have  been  doin|r 


5402  THE  WOMAN   m  WHITE- 

Oh,  my  God  1  am  I  going  to  be  ill  ? 

Ill,  at  such  a  time  as  this ! 

My  head — ^I  am  sadly  afraid  of  my  head.  I  can  write,  but  the  lines  all 
rim  together.  I  see  the  words.  Laura— I  can  write  Laura,  and  see  I  write 
it.    Eight  or  nine — ^which  was  it? 

So  cold,  so  cold— oh,  tliat  rain  last  night  I — and  the  strokes  of  the  clocks 

the  strokes  I  can't  count,  keep  striking  in  my  head— 

*  *  •  *  * 

NOTE. 

[At  this  place  the  entry  in  the  Diary  ceases  to  be  legible.  The  two  or 
three  lines  which  follow,  contain  fragments  of  words  only,  mingled  viith 
blots  and  scratches  of  the  pen.  The  last  marks  on  the  paper  bear  some 
resemblance  to  the  first  two  letters  (L  and  A)  of  the  name  of  Lady  Glyde. 

On  the  next  page  of  the  Diary,  another  entry  appears.  It  is  in  a  man*s 
handwriting,  large,  bold,  and  finnly  regular ;  and  the  date  is  **  June  the 
21st.'*    It  contains  these  Imes :] 

F08T8CBIFT  BT  A  8INCEBE  FBIEKD. 

The  illness  of  our  excellent  Miss  Ebilcombe  has  afforded  me  the  oppor- 
tunity of  enjoying  an  imexpected  intellectual  pleasure. 

I  re&r  to  the  perusal  (which  I  hare  just  completed)  of  this  interesting 
Diary. 

There  are  many  hundred  pages  here.  I  can  lay  my  hand  on  my  heart, 
and  declare  that  every  page  has  charmed,  refreshed,  delighted  me. 

To  a  man  of  my  sentiments,  it  is  imspeakably  gratifying  to  be  able  to 
say  this. 

Admirable  woman  I 

I  allude  to  Miss  Halcombe. 

Stupendous  effort  1 

I  refer  to  the  Diary. 

Tes !  these  pages  are  amazing.  The  tact  which  I  find  here,  the  dis- 
cretion, the  rare  courage,  the  wonderful  power  of  memory,  the  accurate 
observation  of  character,  the  easy  grace  of  style,  the  charming  outbursts  of 
womanly  feeling,  have  all  inexpressibly  increased  my  admiration  of  this 
sublime  creature,  of  this  magnificent  Marian.  The  presentation  of  my  own 
character  is  masterly  in  the  extreme.  I  certify,  with  my  whole  heart,  to 
the  fidelity  of  the  portrait.  I  feel  how  vivid  an  impression  I  must  have 
produced  to  have  been  painted  in  such  strong,  such  rich,  such  massive 
colours  as  these.  I  lament  afresh  the  cruel  necessity  which  sets  our 
interests  at  variance,  and  opposes  us  to  each  other.  Under  happier  circum- 
stances how  worthy  I  should  have  been  of  Miss  Halcombe — how  worths- 
Miss  Halcombe  would  have  been  of  mb. 


THE  WOMAN   IN   WHITB.  263 

The  sentiments  which  animate  my  heart  assure  me  that  the  lines  I  have 
just  written  express  a  Profound  Truth. 

Those  sentiments  exalt  me  ahove  all  merely  personal  oonsideratioDS.  1 
heax  witness,  in  the  most  disinterested  manner,  to  the  excellence  of  the 
stratagem  by  which  this  unparalleled  woman  surprised  the  private  inter- 
view between  Percival  and  myself.  Also  to  the  marvellous  accuracy  of  her 
report  of  the  whole  conversation  from  its  beginning  to  its  end. 

Those  sentiments  have  induced  me  to  offer  to  the  unimpressionable 
doctor  who  attends  on  her,  my  vast  knowledge  of  chemistry,  and  my 
luminous  experience  of  the  more  subtle  resources  which  medical  and 
magnetic  science  have  placed  at  the  disposal  of  mankinds  He  has  hitherto 
declined  to  avail  himself  of  my  assistance.    Miserable  man  1 

Finally,  those  sentiments  dictate  the  lines — grateful,  sympathic,  paternal 
lines — ^which  appear  in  this  place.  I  close  the  book.  My  strict  sense  of 
propriety  restores  it  (by  the  hands  of  my  wife)  to  its  place  on  the  writer's 
tabic.  Events  are  hurrying  me  away.  Circumstances  are  guiding  me  to 
serious  issues.  Yast  perspectives  of  success  nnrol  themselves  before  my 
eyes.  I  accomplish  my  destiny  with  a  calnmess  which  is  terrible  to  myself. 
Kothing  but  the  homage  of  my  admiration  is  my  own.  I  deposit  it,  with 
Kspectful  tenderness,  at  the  &et  of  Miss  Halcombe. 

I  breathe  my  wishes  for  her  recovery. 

I  condole  with  her  on  the  inevitable  failure  of  every  plan  that  she  has 
formed  for  her  sister's  benefit.  At  the  same  time,  I  entreat  her  to  believe 
that  the  information  which  I  have  derived  from  her  diary  will  in  no  respect 
help  me  to  contribute  to  that  failure.  It  simply  confirms  the  plan  of  con- 
duct which  I  had  previously  arranged.  I  have  to  thank  these  pages  for 
awakening  the  finest  sensibilities  in  my  nature — ^nothing  more. 

To  a  person  of  similar  sensibility,  this  simple  assertion  will  explain  and 
excuse  everything. 

Misa  Halcombe  is  a  person  of  similar  sensibility. 

In  that  persuasion,  I  sign  myself, 

Vosoo. 


264  TUB  WOMAN  IN  wuxrs. 


The  Story  continued  by  Fbedebick  FAiBLie,  Esq.,  of  Limmeridge  House.* 

It  is  the  grand  misfortune  of  my  life  that  nobody  will  let  me  alone. 

Why — ^I  ask  everybody — why  worry  me  f  Nobody  answers  that  ques- 
tion ;  and  nobody  lets  me  alone.  Belatives,  friends,  and  strangers  all  com- 
bine to  annoy  me.  What  have  I  done  ?  I  ask  myself,  I  ask  my  servant, 
Louis,  fifty  times  a  day — ^what  have  I  done?  Neither  of  us  can  tell. 
Most  extraordinary ! 

The  last  annoyance  that  has  assailed  me  is  the  annoyance  of  being  called 
upon  to  write  this  Narrative.  Is  a  man  in  my  state  of  nervous  wretched- 
ness capable  of  writing  narratives  ?  When  I  put  this  extremely  reasonable 
objection,  I  am  told  that  certain  very  serious  events,  relating  to  my  niece, 
have  happened  within  my  experience ;  and  that  I  am  the  fit  person  to 
describe  them  on  that  account.  I  am  threatened,  if  I  fail  to  exert  myself 
in  the  manner  required,  with  consequences  which  I  cannot  go  much  as 
think  o^  without  perfect  prostration.  There  is  really  no  need  to  threaten 
me.  Shattered  by  my  miserable  health  and  my  &mily  troubles,  I  am 
incapable  of  resistance.  If  you  insist,  you  take  your  unjust  au vantage  of 
me ;  and  I  give  way  immediately.  I  will  endeavour  to  remember  what  I 
can  (under  protest),  and  to  write  what  I  can  (also  under  protest) ;  and 
what  I  can't  remember  and  can't  write,  Louis  must  remember,  and  write 
for  me.  He  is  an  ass,  and  I  am  an  invalid :  and  we  are  likely  to  make  all 
sorts  of  mistakes  between  us.    How  humiliating  1 

I  am  told  to  remember  dates.  Good  heavens  I  I  never  did  such  a  Hiing 
in  my  life — ^how  am  I  to  begin  now  ? 

I  have  asked  Louis.  He  is  not  quite  such  an  ass  as  I  have  hitherto 
supposed.  He  remembers  the  date  of  the  event,  within  a  week  or  two^ 
and  I  remember  the  name  of  the  person.  The  date  was  towards  the  end  of 
June,  or  the  beginning  of  July ;  and  the  name  (in  my  opinion  a  remarkably 
vulgar  one)  was  Fanny. 

At  the  end  of  June,  or  the  beginning  of  July,  then,  I  was  reclining,  in 
my  customary  state,  surrounded  by  the  various  objects  of  Art  which  I  have 
collected  about  me  to  improve  the  taste  of  the  barbarous  people  in  my 
neighbourhood.  That  is  to  say,  I  had  the  photographs  of  my  pictures,  and 
prints,  and  coins,  and  so  forth,  all  about  me,  which  I  intend,  one  of  these 
days,  to  present  (the  photographs,  I  mean,  if  the  clumsy  English  language 
will  let  me  mean  anything) — to  present  to  the  Institution  at  Carlisle 

*  The  manner  in  which  Mr.  Fairlie's  Narrative,  and  'other  Nartativos  that 
are  sliortly  to  follow  it,  were  oris^iimlly  obtained,  forms  the  subject  of  aa 
explanation  which  will  appear  at  a  later  period. 


TUlfi  WOMAN  IN   WHITIU  2i}0 

{ horrid  placo  l\  with  a  view  to  improying  the  tastes  of  the  Members  (Goths 
and  Vandals  to  a  man).  It  might  be  supposed  that  a  gentleman  who  was 
'n  course  of  conferring  a  great  national  benefit  on  his  countrymen,  was  the 
last  gentleman  in  the  world  to  be  unfeelingly  worried  about  private 
difficulties  and  fsimily  affairs.    Quite  a  mistake,  I  assure  you,  in  my  case. 

However,  there  I  was,  reclining,  with  my  art-treasures  about  me,  and 
wanting  a  quiet  morning.  Because  I  wanted  a  quiet  morning,  of  course 
Louis  came  in.  It  was  perfectly  natural  that  I  should  inquire  what  the 
deuce  he  meant  by  making  his  appearance,  when  I  had  not  rung  my  bell. 
I  seldom  swear — ^it  is  such  an  ungentlemanlike  habit — ^but  when  Louis 
answered  by  a  grin,  I  think  it  was  also  perfectly  natural  that  I  should 
damn  him  for  grinning.    At  any  rate,  I  did. 

This  rigorous  mode  of  treatment,  I  have  observed,  invariably  brings 
persons  in  the  lower  class  of  life  to  their  senses.  It  brought  Louis  to  his 
senses.  He  was  so  obliging  as  to  leave  off  griiming,  and  inform  me  that  a 
Young  Person  was  outside,  wanting  to  see  me.  He  added  (with  the  odious 
talkativeness  of  servants),  that  her  name  was  Fanny. 

"  Who  is  Fanny  ?" 

"  Lady  Glyde's  maid,  sir.** 

"  What  does  Lady  Glyde's  maid  want  with  me  f** 

"  A  letter,  sir—" 

"Take,  it." 

"  She  refuses  to  give  it  to  anybody  but  you,  sir." 

"  Who  sends  the  letter  ?" 

"  Miss  Halcombe,  sir." 

The  moment  I  heard  Miss  Halcombe's  name,  I  gave  up.  It  is  a  habit  ot 
mine  always  to  give  up  to  Miss  Halcombe.  I  find,  by  experience,  that  it 
saves  noise.     I  gave  up  on  this  occasion.    Dear  Marian ! 

**  Let  Lady  Glyde's  maid  come  in,  Louis.    Stop !    Do  her  shoes  creak  ?'* 

I  was  obliged  to  ask  the  question.  Creaking  shoes  invariably  upset  me 
for  the  day.  I  was  resigned  to  see  the  Young  Person,  but  I  was  not 
resigned  to  let  the  Young  Person's  shoes  upset  me.  There  is  a  limit  even 
to  my  endurance. 

Louis  afiirmed  distinctly  that  her  shoes  were  to  be  depended  upon.  I 
waved  my  hand.  He  introduced  her.  Is  it  necessary  to  say  that  she 
expressed  her  sense  of  embarrassment  by  shutting  up  her  mouth  and 
breathing  through  her  nose  ?  To  the  student  of  female  human  nature  in 
the  lower  orders,  surely  not; 

Let  me  do  the  girl  justice.  Her  shoes  did  not  creak.  But  why  do 
Young  Persons  in  service  all  perspire  at  the  hands  ?  Why  have  they  all 
got  fat  noses,  and  hard  cheeks  ?  And  why  are  their  faces  so  sadly  un- 
iiriished, especially  about  the  comers  of  the  eyelids?  I  am  not  strong 
enough  to  think  deeply  myself, on  any  subject;  but  I  appeal  to  piofec 


266  THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

Bional  men  who  are.  Why  have  we  no  variety  in  our  breed  of  Young 
Persons? 

'*  You  have  a  letter  for  me,  from  Miss  Halcombe?  Put  it  down  on  th« 
table,  please ;  and  don't  upset  anything.    How  is  Miss  Haloombe  f* 

"  Very  well,  thank  you,  sir." 

"And  Lady  Glyde?" 

I  received  no  answer.  The  Young  Person^s  face  became  more  unfinished 
than  ever ;  and,  I  think  she  began  to  cry.  I  certainly  saw  something  moist 
about  her  eyes.  Tears  or  perspiration  ?  Louis  (whom  I  have  just  con- 
sulted) is  inclined  to  think,  tears.  He  is  in  her  class  of  life ;  and  he  ought 
to  know  best.    Let  us  say,  tears. 

Except  when  the  refining  process  of  Art  judiciously  removes  from  them 
all  resemblance  to  Nature,  I  distmctly  object  to  tears.  Tears  are  scientifi- 
cally described  as  a  Secretion.  I  can  understand  that  a  secretion  may  be 
healthy  or  unhealthy,  but  I  cannot  see  the  interest  of  a  secretion  from  a 
sentimental  point  of  view.  Perhaps  my  own  secretions  being  all  wrong 
together,  I  am  a  little  prejudiced  on  the  subject.  No  matter.  I  behaved, 
on  this  occasion,  with  all  possible  propriety  and  feeling.  I  closed  my  eyes, 
and  said  to  Louis, 

"  Endeavour  to  ascertain  what  she  means." 

Louis  endeavoured,  and  the  Young  Person  endeavoured.  They  suc- 
ceeded in  confusing  each  other  to  such  an  extent  that  I  am  bound  in 
common  gratitude  to  say,  they  really  amused  me.  I  think  I  shall  send  for 
them  again,  when  I  am  in  low  spirits.  I  have  just  mentioned  this  idea  to 
Louis.  Strange  to  say,  it  seems  to  make  him  uncomfortable.  Poor 
devil  I 

Surely,  I  am  not  expected  to  repeat  my  niece's  maid*s  explanation  of  her 
tears,  interpreted  in  the  EngUsh  of  my  Swiss  valet?  The  thing  is  mani- 
festly impossible.  I  can  give  my  own  impressions  and  feelings  perhaps. 
Will  that  do  as  well  ?    Please  say.  Yes. 

My  idea  is  that  she  began  by  telling  me  (through  Louis)  that  her  master 
had  dismissed  her  from  her  mistress's  service.  (Observe,  throughout^  the 
strange  irrelevancy  of  the  Young  Person.  Was  it  my  fault  that  she  had  lost 
her  place  ?)  On  her  dismissal,  she  had  gone  to  the  inn  to  sleep.  (/  don't 
keep  the  inn — ^why  mention  it  to  me  f)  Between  six  o'clock  and  seven, 
Miss  Halcombe  had  come  to  say  good-by,  and  had  given  her  two  letters, 
one  for  me,  and  one  for  a  gentleman  in  London.  (/  am  not  a  gentleman  in 
London — hang  the  gentleman  in  London !)  She  had  carefully  put  the  two 
letters  into  her  bosom  (what  have  I  to  do  with  her  bosom  ?) ;  she  had  been 
very  unhappy,  when  Miss  Halcombe  had  gone  away  again ;  she  had  not 
had  the  heart  to  put  bit  or  drop  between  her  lips  till  it  was  near  bedtime ; 
and  then,  when  it  was  close  on  nine  o'clock,  she  had  thought  she  should 
like  a  cup  of  tea.    (Am  I  responsible  for  any  of  these  vulgar  fluotuatioRs, 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  267 

lUh  begin  with  tmbappiiiGSs  and  end  with  tea  ?)  Just  as  she  was  warm* 
ing  the  pot  (I  give  the  words  en  the  authority  of  Louis,  who  says  he  knows 
what  they  mean,  and  wishes  to  explain,  hut  I  snuh  him  on  principle) — 
just  as  she  was  warming  the  pot,  the  door  opened,  and  she  was  struck  of  a 
heap  (her  own  words  again,  and  perfectly  unintelligihle,  this  time,  to  Louis, 
as  well  as  to  myself)  by  the  appearance,  in  the  inn  parlour,  of  her  lady- 
ship, the  Countess.  I  give  my  niece's  maid's  description  of  my  sistei^s 
title  with  a  sense  of  the  highest  relish.  My  poor  dear  sister  is  a  tiresome 
woman  who  married  a  foreigner.  To  resume :  the  door  opened ;  her  lady- 
ship, the  Countess,  appeared  in  the  parlour,  and  the  Young  Person  was 
itmck  of  a  heap.     Most  remarkable  1 

I  must  really  rest  a  little  before  I  can  get  on  any  farther.  When  I  have 
reclined  ifor  a  few  minutes,  with  my  eyes  closed,  and  when  Louis  has 
refreshed  my  poor  aching  temples  with  a  little  eau-de-Cologne,  I  may  be 
able  to  proceed. 

Her  ladyship,  the  Countess 

Ko.  I  am  able  to  proceed,  but  not  to  sit  up.  I  will  recline,  and  dictate. 
Louis  has  a  horrid  accent ;  but  he  knows  the  language,  and  can  write. 
How  very  convenient ! 

Her  ladyship,  the  Countess,  explained  her  unexpected  appearance  at  the 
inn  by  telling  Fanny  that  she  had  come  to  bring  one  or  two  little  messages 
which  Miss  Halcombe,  in  her  hurry,  had  forgotten.  The  Young  Person 
thereupon  waited  anxiously  to  hear  what  the  messages  were ;  but  the 
Countess  seemed  disinclined  to  mention  them  (so  like  my  sister's  tiresome 
way  I),  until  Fanny  had  had  her  tea.  Her  ladyship  was  surprisingly  kind 
and  thoughtful  about  it  (extremely  unlike  my  sister),  and  said,  **  I  am 
sure,  my  poor  girl,  you  must  want  your  tea.  We  can  let  the  messages 
wait  till  afterwards.  Come,  come,  if  nothing  else  will  put  you  at  your 
ease,  YU  make  the  tea,  and  have  a  cup  with  you."  I  think  those  were  the 
words,  as  reported  excitably,  in  my  presence,  by  the  Young  Person.  At 
any  rate,  the  Countess  insisted  on  making  the  tea,  and  carried  her  ridiculous 
ostentation  of  humility  so  far  as  to  take  one  cup  herself,  and  to  insist  on 
the  girl's  taking  the  other.  The  girl  drank  the  tea ;  and,  according  to  her 
own  account,  solemnised  the  extraordinary  occasion,  five  minutes  afterwards, 
by  fainting  dead  away,  for  the  first  time  in  her  life.  Here  again,  I  use 
her  own  words.  Louis  thinks  they  were  accompanied  by  an  increased 
secretion  of  tears.  I  can't  say,  myself.  The  effort  of  listening  being  quite 
as  mudi  as  I  could  manage,  my  eyes  were  closed. 

Where  did  I  leave  off?  Ah,  yes — she  fainted,  after  drinking  a  cup  of 
tea  with  the  Coimtess :  a  proceeding  which  might  have  interested  me,  if  I 
had  been  her  medical  man ;  but,  being  nothing  of  the  sort,  I  felt  bored  by 


268  Tn£  WOMAN  IN  WHITE. 

hearing  of  it,  nothing  more.  When  she  came  to  herself,  in  half  an  houdl 
time,  she  was  on  the  sofa,  and  nohody  was  with  her  but  the  landlady. 
The  Countess,  finding  it  too  late  to  remain  any  longer  at  the  inn,  had  gone 
away  as  soon  as  the  girl  showed  signs  of  recovering ;  and  the  landlady  had 
been  good  enough  to  help  her  up-stairs  to  bed. 

Left  by  herself,  she  had  felt  in  her  bosom  (I  regret  the  necessity  of  refer- 
ring to  this  part  of  the  subject  a  second  time),  and  had  foimd  the  two 
letters  there,  quite  safe,  but  strangely  crumpled.  She  had  been  giddy  in 
the  night ;  but  had  got  up  well  enough  to  travel  in  the  morning.  She  had 
put  the  letter  addressed  to  that  obtrusive  stranger,  the  gentleman  in 
London,  into  the  post ;  and  had  now  delivered  the  other  letter  into  my 
hands,  as  she  was  told.  This  was  the  plain  truth ;  and,  though  she  could 
not  blame  herself  for  any  intentional  neglect,  she  was  sadly  troubled  in  her 
mind,  and  sadly  in  want  of  a  word  of  advice.  At  this  point,  Louis  thinks 
the  secretions  appeared  again.  Perhaps  they  did ;  but  it  is  of  infinitely 
greater  importance  to  mention  that,  at  this  point  also,  I  lost  my  patience, 
opened  my  eyes,  and  interfered. 

"  What  is  the  purport  of  all  this  ?"  I  inquired. 

My  niece's  irrelevant  maid  stared,  and  stood  speechless. 

"  Endeavour  to  explain,"  I  said  to  my  servant.     "  Translate  me,  Louia.** 

Louis  endeavoured,  and  translated.  In  other  words,  he  descended 
immediately  into  a  bottomless  pit  of  confusion;  and  the  Young  Person 
followed  him  down.  I  really  don't  know  when  I  have  been  so  amused. 
I  left  them  at  the  bottom  of  the  pit,  as  long  as  they  diverted  me. 
When  they  ceased  to  divert  me,  I  exerted  my  intelligence,  and  pulled  them 
up  again. 

It  is  unnecessary  to  say  that  my  interference  enabled  me,  in  due  course 
of  time,  to  ascertain  the  purport  of  the  Young  Person's  remarks. 

I  discovered  that  she  was  uneasy  in  her  mind,  because  the  train  of 
events  that  she  had  just  described  to  me,  had  prevented  her  from  receiving 
those  supplementary  messages  which  Miss  Halcombe  had  intrusted  ix>  the 
Countess  to  deliver.  She  was  afraid  the  messages  might  have  been  of  great 
importance  to  her  mistress's  interests.  Her  dread  of  Sir  Percival  had 
deterred  her  from  going  to  Blackwater  Park  late  at  night  to  inquire  about 
them ;  and  Miss  Halcombe's  own  directions  to  her,  on  no  account  to  miss 
the  train  in  the  morning,  had  prevented  her  from  waiting  at  the  inn  the 
next  day.  She  was  most  anxious  that  the  misfortune  of  her  fainting-fit 
should  not  lead  to  the  second  misfortune  of  making  her  mistress  think  her 
neglectful,  and  she  would  humbly  beg  to  ask  me  whether  I  would  advise 
her  to  write  her  explanations  and  excuses  to  Miss  Halcombe,  requesting  to 
Deceive  the  messages  by  letter,  if  it  was  not  too  late.  I  make  no  apologies 
for  this  extremely  prosy  paragraph.  I  have  been  ordered  to  write  it. 
There  are  people,  unaocoimtable  as  it  may  appear,  who  actually  take  more 


THE  WOMAN   IH    WHITE.  2G0 

interest  in  what  my  niece's  maid'  said  to  me  on  this  occasion,  than  in  what 
1  said  to  my  niece's  maid.    Amusing  perversity ! 

**I  should  feel  very  much  obliged  to  you,  sir,  if  you  would  kindly  tell 
me  what  I  had  better  do,"  remarked  the  Young  Person. 

"Let  things  stop  as  they  are,*'  I  said,  adapting  my  language  to  my 
listener.     **  /  invariably  let  things  stop  as  they  are.    Yes.    Is  that  all  ?*' 

"  If  you  think  it  would  be  a  liberty  in  me,  sir,  to  write,  of  course  I 
wouldn't  venture  to  do  so.  But  I  am  so  very  anxious  to  do  all  I  can  to 
serve  my  mistress  faithfully " 

People  in  the  lower  class  of  life  never  know  when  or  how  to  go  out  of 
a  room.  They  invariably  require  to  be  helped  out  by  their  bettera.  I 
thought  it  high  time  to  help  the  Young  Person  out.  I  did  it  with  two 
jndicious  words : 

"  Good  morning !" 

Something,  outside  or  inside  this  singular  girl,  suddenly  creaked.  Louis, 
who  was  looking  at  her  (which  I  was  not),  says  she  creaked  when  she 
curtseyed.  Curious.  Was  it  her  shoes,  her  stays,  or  her  bones  ?  Louis 
thinks  it  was  her  stays.    Most  extraordinary  1 

As  soon  as  I  was  left  by  myself,  I  had  a  little  nap— I  really  wanted  it. 
When  I  awoke  again,  I  noticed  dear  Marian's  letter.  If  I  had  had  the 
least  idea  of  what  it  contained,  I  should  certainly  not  have  attempted  to 
open  it.  Being,  unfortunately  for  myself,  quite  innocent  of  all  suspicion,  I 
read  the  letter.    It  inmiediately  upset  me  for  the  day. 

I  am,  by  nature,  one  of  the  most  easy-tempered  creatures  that  ever  lived 
—I  make  allowances  for  everybody,  and  I  take  ofiFence  at  nothing.  But,  at 
I  have  before  remarked,  there  are  limits  to  my  endurance.  I  laid  down 
Marian's  letter,  and  felt  myself— justly  felt  myself — an  injured  man. 

I  am  about  to  make  a  remark.  It  is,  of  course,  applicable  to  the  very 
serious  matter  now  under  notice — or  I  should  not  allow  it  lo  appear  in  this 
place. 

Nothing,  m  my  opinion,  sets  tne  odious  seifisoness  of  mankind  in  sucn  a 
repulsively  vivid  light,  as  the  treatment,  in  all  classes  of  society,  which  the 
Single  people  receive  at  the  hands  of  the  Married  people.  When  you  have 
once  shown  yourself  too  considerate  and  self-denying  to  add  a  family  of 
your  own  to  an  already  overcrowded  population,  you  are  vindictively 
marked  out  by  your  married  friends,  who  have  no  similar  consideration 
and  no  similar  self-denial,  as  the  recipient  of  half  their  conjugal  troubles, 
and  the  bom  friend  of  all  their  children.  Husbands  and  wives  talk  of  the 
cares  of  matrimony ;  and  bachelors  and  spins  ers  bear  them.  Take  my 
own  case.  I  considerately  remain  single;  and  my  poor  dear  brother, 
Philip,  inconsiderately  marries.  What  docs  he  do  when  he  dies?  He 
leaves  his  daughter  to  me.    She  is  a  sweet  girl.    She  is  also  a  dreadfu^ 


ItlO  THE  WOMAN  IN   WHITE. 

responsibility.  Why  lay  her  on  my  shoulders  ?  Because  1  am  bovn^  in 
the  harmless  character  of  a  single  man,  to  relieve  my  married  connexions  of 
all  their  own  troubles.  I  do  my  best  with  my  brother's  responsibility ;  I 
marry  my  niece,  with  infinite  fuss  and  difficulty,  to  the  man  her  father 
wanted  her  to  marry.  She  and  her  husband  disagree,  and  unpleasant  oon- 
sequences  follow.  What  does  she  do  with  those  consequences?  8hfl 
transfers  them  to  me.  Why  transfer  them  to  me  f  Because  I  am  bound, 
in  the  harmless  character  of  a  single  man,  to  relieve  my  married  connexions 
vf  all  their  own  troubles.    Poor  single  people  I    Poor  human  nature  I 

It  is  qtdte  unnecessary  to  say  that  Marian's  letter  threatened  me.  Every- 
body threatens  me.  All  sorts  of  horrors  were  to  fall  on  my  devoted  head, 
if  I  hesitated  to  turn  Limmeridge  House  into  an  asylum  for  my  niece  and 
her  misfortunes.    I  did  hesitate,  nevertheless. 

I  have  mentioned  that  my  usual  course,  hitherto,  had  been  to  submit  to 
dear  Marian,  and  save  noise.  But,  on  this  occasion,  the  consequences 
involved  in  her  extremely  inconsiderate  proposal,  were  of  a  nature  to  make 
me  pause.  If  I  opened  Limmeridge  House  as  an  asylum  to  Lady  Glyde, 
what  security  had  I  against  Sir  Percival  Glyde's  following  her  here,  in  a 
state  of  violent  resentment  against  m^  for  harbouring  his  wife?  I  saw 
such  a  perfect  labyrinth  of  troubles  involved  in  this  proceeding,  that  I 
determined  to  feel  my  ground,  as  it  were.  I  wrote,  therefore,  to  dear 
Afarian,  to  beg  (as  she  had  no  husband  to  lay  claim  to  her)  that  she  would 
come  here  by  herself,  first,  and  talk  the  matter  over  with  me.  If  she 
could  answer  my  objections  to  my  own  perfect  satisfaction,  then  I  assured 
her  that  I  would  receive  our  sweet  Laura  with  the  greatest  pleasure — but 
not  otherwise. 

I  felt  of  course,  at  the  time,  that  this  temporising,  on  my  part,  would 
probably  end  in  bringing  Marian  here  in  a  state  of  virtuous  indignation, 
banging  doors.  But,  then,  the  other  course  of  proceeding  might  end  in 
bringing  Sir  Percival  here  in  a  state  of  virtuous  indignation,  banging  doors 
also ;  and,  of  the  two  indignations  and  hangings,  I  preferred  Marian's — 
because  I  was  used  to  her.  Accordingly,  I  despatched  the  letter  by  return 
of  post.  It  gained  me  time,  at  all  events — and,  oh  dear  me !  what  a  point 
that  was  to  begin  with. 

When  I  am  totally  prostrated  (did  I  mention  that  I  was  totally  prostrated 
by  Marian's  letter  ?),  it  always  takes  me  three  days  to  get  up  again.  I  was 
very  unreasonable — ^I  expected  three  days  of  quiet.  Of  course  I  didn't  get 
them. 

The  third  day's  post  brought  me  a  most  impertinent  letter  from  a  person 
with  whom  I  was  totally  unacquainted.  He  described  himself  as  the 
acting  partner  of  our  man  of  business — our  dear,  pig-headed  old  Gilmore— 
and  he  informed  me  that  he  had  lately  received,  by  the  post^  a  letter 
addressed  to  him  in  Miss  Ealoombe's  handwriting.     On  opening  the 


THE  WOMAN  IN  WHITE.  271 

envelope,  he  had  discovered,  to  his  astonishment,  that  it  contained  nothing 
but  a  blank  sheet  of  note  paper.  This  circumstance  appeared  to  him  so 
BQspicious  (as  suggesting  to  his  restless  legal  mind  Ihat  the  letter  had  been 
tampered  with)  that  he  had  at  once  writtefi  to  Miss  Halcombe,  and  had 
received  no  answer  by  return  of  post.  In  this  difficulty,  instead  of  acting 
like  a  sensible  man  and  letting  things  take  their  proper  course,  his  next 
absurd  proceeding,  on  his  own  showing,  was  to  pester  mcy  by  writing  to 
inquire  if  I  knew  anything  about  it.  What  the  deuce  should  I  know  about 
it?  Why  alarm  me  as  well  as  himself?  I  wrote  back  to  that  effect.  It 
was  one  of  my  keenest  letters.  I  have  produced  nothing  with  a  sharper 
epistolary  edge  to  it,  since  I  tendered  his  dismissal  in  writing  to  that 
extremely  troublesome  person,  Mr.  Walter  Hartright. 

My  letter  produced  its  effect.    I  heard  nothing  more  from  the  lawyer. 

This  perhaps  was  not  altogether  surprising.  But  it  was  certainly  a 
remarkable  circumstance  that  no  second  letter  reached  me  from  Marian, 
and  that  no  warning  signs  appeared  of  her  arrival.  Her  unexpecteii 
absence  did  me  amazing  good.  It  was  so  very  soothing  and  pleasant  to 
infer  (as  I  did  of  course)  that  my  married  connexions  had  made  it  up  again. 
Five  days  of  imdisturbed  tranquillity,  of  delicious  single  blessedness,  quite 
restored  me.  On  the  sixth  day,  I  felt  strong  enough  to  send  for  my 
photographer,  and  to  set  him  at  work  again  on  the  presentation  copies  of 
my  art  treasures,  with  a  view,  as  I  have  already  mentioned,  to  the  im- 
provement of  taste  in  this  barbarous  neighbourhood.  I  had  just  dismissed 
him  to  his  workshop,  and  had  just  b^un  coquetting  with  my  coins,  when 
Louis  suddenly  made  his  appearance  with  a  card  in  his  hand. 

"  Another  Young  Person  ?"  I  said.  "  I  won't  see  her.  In  my  state  of 
health.  Young  Persons  disagree  with  me.    Not  at  home." 

**  It  is  a  gentleman  this  time,  sir." 

A  gentleman  of  course  made  a  difference.    I  looked  at  the  card. 

Gracious  Heaven !  my  tiresome  sister's  foreign  husband.    Count  Fosco. 

Is  it  necessary  to  say  what  my  first  impression  was,  when  I  looked  at 
my  visitor's  card  ?  Surely  not  ?  My  sister  having  married  a  foreigner, 
there  was  but  one  impression  that  any  man  in  his  senses  could  possibly  feel. 
Of  oouise  the  Count  had  come  to  borrow  money  of  me. 

"  Louis,"  1  said,  "  do  you  think  ne  would  go  away,  if  you  gave  him  five 
shillings  ?" 

Louis  looked  quite  shocked.  He  surprised  me  inexpressibly,  by  declaring 
that  my  sister's  foreign  husband  was  dressed  superbly,  and  looked  tlie 
picture  of  prosperity.  Under  these  circumstances,  my  first  impression 
altered  to  a  certain  extent.  I  now  took  it  for  granted,  that  the  Count  had 
matrimonial  difQcnlties  of  his  own  to  contend  with,  and  that  he  had  come, 
like  the  rest  of  the  family,  to  cast  them  all  on  my  shouldent. 


i72  THE  WOMAN    IN   WFIITK. 

"  Did  Le  mention  his  bnainess  ?"  I  askeu. 

"  Count  Fosco  said  he  had  come  here,  sir,  because  Miss  Halcombu  vrai 
unable  to  leave  Blackwater  Park." 

Fresh  troubles,  apparently.  Not  exactly  his  own,  as  I  had  supposed, 
but  dear  Marian's^    Troubles,  any  way.    Oh  dear  I 

"  Show  him  in,**  1  said,  resignedly. 

The  Count's  first  appearance  really  startled  me.  He  was  such  an  alarm- 
ingly large  person,  that  I  quite  tremble<,l.  I  felt  certain  that  he  would 
shake  the  floor,  and  knock  down  my  art-treasures.  He  did  neither  the 
one  nor  the  other.  He  was  refreshingly  dressed  in  summer  costume ;  his 
manner  was  delightfully  self-possessed  and  quiet — ^he  had  a  charming 
smile.  My  first  impression  of  him  was  highly  favourable.  It  is  not 
creditable  to  my  penetration — ^as  the  sequel  will  show — to  acknowledge 
this ;  but  I  am  a  naturally  candid  man,  and  I  do  acknowledgo  it,  notwith- 
fitanding. 

"  Allow  me  to  present  myself,  Mr.  Fairlie,'*  he  said.  "  I  come  from 
Blackwater  Park,  and  I  have  the  honour  and  the  happiness  pf  being 
Madame  Fosco's  husband.  Let  me  take  my  first,  and  last,  advantage  of 
that  circumstance,  by  entreating  you  not  to  make  a  stranger  of  me.  I  beg 
you  will  not  disturb  yourself — I  beg  you  will  not  move." 

"  You  are  very  good,**  I  replied.  "  I  wish  I  was  strong  enough  to  get 
np.    Charmed  to  see  you  at  Limmeridge.    Please  take  a  chair." 

"  I  am  afraid  you  are  suffering  to-day,"  said  the  Count. 

"  As  usual,**  I  said.  *'  I  am  nothing  but  a  bundle  of  nerves  dressed  up 
to  look  like  a  man.'* 

**  I  have  studied  many  subjects  in  my  time,*'  remarked  this  sympathetic 
person,  **  Among  others  the  inexhaustible  subject  of  nerves.  May  I 
make  a  suggestion,  at  once  the  simplest  and  the  most  profound  ?  AVill 
you  let  me  alter  the  light  in  your  room  ?" 

**  Certainly — if  you  will  be  so  very  kind  as  not  to  let  any  of  it  in  on 


me." 


He  walked  to  the  window.    Sucn  a  contrast  to  dear  Marian !  so  e; 
tremely  considemte  in  all  his  movements  I 

**  Light,**  he  said,  in  that  delightfully  confidential  tone  which  is  so  sooth- 
ing to  an  invalid,  *Ms  the  fiVst  essential.  Light  stimulates,  nourishes, 
preserves.  You  can  no  more  do  without  it,  Mr.  Fairlie,  than  if  you  were  a 
flower.  Observe.  Here,  where  you  sit,  I  close  the  shutters,  to  compose 
you.  There,  where  you  do  not  sit,  T  draw  up  the  blind  and  let  in  the 
invigorating  sun.  Admit  the  light  into  your  room,  if  you  cannot  bear 
it  on  yourself.  Light,  sir,  is  the  grand  decree  of  Providence.  You  accept 
Pit)videnoe  with  your  own  restrictions.    Accept  light — on  the  same  terms." 

I  thought  this  very  convincing  and  attentive.    He  had  taken  me  in — up 
>  that  point  about  the  light,  he  had  certainly  taken  me  in. 


THR  WOMAN  IN   WHITE.  273 

"  Yoa  see  me  confused,"  he  said,  lettnning  to  his  place— '^(m  my  woitl 
of  honour,  Mr.  Fairlie,  you  see  me  confused  in  your  presence.** 

"  Shocked  to  hear  it,  I  am  sure.    May  I  inquire  why  ?" 

''Sir,  can  I  enter  this  room  (where  you  sit  a  sufferer),  and  see  you  sux^ 
rounded  hy  these  admirable  objects  of  Art,  without  discovering  that  you 
are  a  man  whose  feelings  are  acutely  impressionable,  whose  sympathies  are 
perpetually  alive  ?     Tell  me,  can  I  do  this  T 

If  I  had  been  strong  enough  to  sit  up  in  my  chair,  I  should  of  course 
have  bowed.  Not  being  strong  enough,  I  smiled  my  acknowledgments 
instead.    It  did  just  as  well,  we  both  understood  one  another. 

"  Piiay  follow  my  train  of  thought^"  continued  the  Count.  "  I  sit  here, 
a  man  of  refined  sympathies  myself,  in  the  presence  of  another  man  of 
refined  sympathies  also.  I  am  conscious  of  a  terrible  necessity  for  laoerat* 
ing  those  sympathies  by  referring  to  domestic  events  of  a  very  melancholy 
kind.  What  is  the  inevitable  consequence?  I  have  done  myself  the 
honour  of  pointing  it  out  to  you,  already.    1  sit  confused." 

Was  it  at  this  point  that  I  began  to  suspect  he  was  going  to  bore  me?  I 
rather  think  it  was. 

''Is  it  absolutely  necessary  to  refer  to  these  unpleasant  matters?"  I  in- 
quired.   "  In  our  homely  English  phrase,  Count  Fosco,  won't  they  keep  ?" 

The  Count,  with  the  most  alanning  solemnity,  siglied  and  shook  his 
head. 
•- '"  Must  I  really  hear  them  ?" 

He  shrugged  his  shoulders  (it  was  the  first  foreign  thing  he  had  done, 
since  he  had  been  in  the  room) ;  and  looked  at  me  in  an  unpleasantly  pene- 
trating manner.  My  instincts  told  me  that  I  had  better  close  my  eyes.  I 
obeyed  my  instincts. 

"  Please  break  it  gently,"  I  pleaded.    "  Anybody  dead?" 

**  Bead !"  cried  the  Count,  with  unnecessary  foreign  fierceness.  "  Mr. 
Fairlie  I  your  national  composure  terrifies  me.  In  the  name  of  Heaven, 
what  have  I  said,  or  done,  to  make  you  think  me  the  messenger  of 
death  ?" 

"Pray  accept  my  apologies,"  I  answered.  "  You  have  said  and  done 
nothing.  I  make  it  a  rule,  in  these  distressing  cases,  always  to  anticipate 
the  worst.  It  breaks  the  blow,  by  meeting  it  half  way,  and  so  on.  Inex- 
pressibly relieved,  I  am  sure,  to  hear  that  nobody  is  dead.    Anybody  ill?" 

I  opened  my  eyes,  and  looked  at  him.  Was  he  very  yellow,  when  he 
came  in  ?  or  had  he  turned  very  yellow,  in  the  last  minute  or  two  ?  I 
really  can't  say ;  and  I  can't  ask  Louis,  because  he  was  not  in  the  room  at 
the  time. 

•'  Anybody  ill?"  I  repeated ;  observing  that  my  national  composure  stUl 
appeared  to  affect  him. 

**  That  is  part  of  my  bad  news,  %r,  Fairlie.    Yes.    Somebody  is  ilU" 


274  THE  WOMAN  IN  WUITK 

"  Grievwl,  1  am  sure.    Which  of  them  is  it?** 

"To  my  profound  sorrow,  Miss  Halcombe.  Perhaps  Tyou  were  in  aome 
degree  prepared  to  hear  this  ?  Perhaps,  when  you  found  that  Miss  Hal- 
combe did  not  oome  here  by  herself,  as  you  proposed,  and  did  not  write  a 
seoond  time,  your  affectionate  anxiety  may  have  made  you  fear  that  she 
waa  ilVr 

I  have  no  doubt  my  affectionate  anxiety  had  led  to.  that  melancholy 
apprehen^on,  at  some  time  or  other ;  but,  at  the  moment,  my  wretched 
memory  entirely  failed  to  remind  me  of  the  circumstance.  .  However,  I 
said.  Yes,  in  justice  to  myself.  I  was  much  shocked.  It  was  so  very  un- 
characteristic of  such  a  robust  person  as  dear  Marian  to  be  ill,  that  I  could 
only  suppose  she  had  met  with  an  accident.  A  horse,  or  a  false  step  on 
the  stairs,  or  something  of  that  sort.  ^ 

**  Is  it  serious  ?"  I  asked. 

"  Serious — beyond  a  doubt,"  he  replied.  "  Dangerous — I  hope  and  trust 
not.  Miss  Halcombe  unhaj^ily  exposed  herself  to  be  wetted  through  by  a 
heavy  rain.  The  cold  that  followed  was  of  an  aggravated  kind ;  and  it  has 
now  brought  with  it  the  worst  consequence — ^Fever.** 

When  I  heard  the  word.  Fever,  abd  when  I  remembered,  at  the  same 
moment,  that  the  unscrupulous  person  who  was  now  addressing  me  had 
just  come  from  Blackwater  Park,  I  thought  I  should  have  Jiinted  on  the 
spot. 

"  Good  God  1''  I  said.    "  Is  it  infectious  ?" 

'Not  at  present,"  he  answered,  with  detestable  composure.  '^Itmay 
turn  to  infection — ^but  no  such  deplorable  complication  hadtake(n  place 
-when  J  left  Blackwater  Park.  I  have  felt  the  deepest  interest  in  the  case, 
Mr.  Fairlie — ^I  have  endeavoured  to  assist  the  regular  medical  attendant  in 
watching  it— accept  my  personal  assurances  of  the  uninfeptieus  natmie  of 
the  fever,  when  I  last  saw  it." 

Accept  his  assurances  I  I  never  was  farther  from  accepting  anythmg  in 
my  life.  I  would  not  have  believed  him  on  his  oath.  He  was  too  yellow 
to  be  believed.  He  looked  like  a  walking- West-Indian-epidemic.  He  was 
big  enough  to  carry  typhus  by  the  ton,  and  to  dye  Ihe  very  carpet  he 
walked  on  with  scarlet  fever.  In  certain  emergencies,  my  mind  is  remark- 
ably soon  made  up.    I  instantly  determined  to  get  rid  o(  him. 

"You  will  kindly  excuse  an  invalid,"  I  said — **but  long  conferences  of 
auy  kind  invariably  upset  me.  May  I  beg  to  know  exactly  what  the  ob- 
ject is  to  which  I  am  indebted  for  the  honour  of  your  visit?" 

I  fervently  hoped  that  this  remarkably  broad  hint  would  throw  him  off 
his  balance — confuse  him — ^reduce  him  to  polite  apologies — ^in  short,  get 
him  out  of  the  room.  On  the  contrary,  it  only  settled  him  in  his  diair. 
He  became  additionally  solemn  and  dignified  and  confidential.  He  held 
up  two  of  his  horrid  fingers,  and  gave  me  another  of  his  unpleasantly  peise- 


trating  looks.  Whftt  was  I  to  do?  1  was  not  strong  enough  to  quarrs) 
wifch  him.  Conceive  my  situation,  if  yon  please.  Is  language  adequate  to 
describe  it  ?    I  think  not^ 

**  The  ot^ects  of  my  visit,"  he  went  on,  quite  inepressibly,  "  are  num- 
bered on  my  fingers.  They  are  two.  First,  I  oome  to  bear  my  testimony, 
with  prafoond  sorrow,  to  the  lamentable  disagreements  between  Sir  Fer* 
cival  and  Lady  Glyde.  I  am  Sir  Percival's  oldest  friend ;  I  am  related  to 
liady  Glyde  by  marriage ;  I  am  an  eye-witness  of  all  that  has  happened  at 
Blackwater  Park.  In  those  three  capadtieB  I  speak  with  authority,  with 
confidence,  with  honourable  r^ret.  Sir !  I  inf^m  you,  as  the  head  of  Lady 
61yde*s  fomily,  that  Miss  Halcombe  has  exaggerated  nothing  in  the  letter 
v^hich  she  wrote  to  your  address.  I  affirm  that  the  remedy  which  that  ad- 
mirable lady  has  proposed,  is  the  only  remedy  that  will  spare  you  the 
horrors  of.  public  scandal.  A  temporary  separation  between  husband  and 
wife  is  the  one  peaceable  solution  of  this  difficulty.  Part  them  for  the 
present ;  and  when  all  causes  of  irritetion  are  removed,  I,  who  have  now 
the  hosMNir  of  addres^ng  yo&— I  will  tmdertake  to  bring  Sir  Percival  to 
reason.  Lady  Glyde  is  innocent,  Lady  Glyde  is  injured  ;  but-hollow  my 
thought  here  1 — she  is,  on  that  very  acdount  (I  say  it  with  shame),  the 
cause  of  irritetion  while  she  remains  under  her  husband's  roof.  No  other 
house  can  receive  her  with  propriety,  but  yours.    I  invite  you  to  open  it !" 

Cool.  Here  was  a  matrimonial  hailstorm  pouring  in  the  South  of  Eng- 
land ;  and  I  was  invited,  by  a  man  with  fever  in  every  fold  of  his  coat,  to 
oome  out  from  the  North  of  Bng^d,  and  teke  my  share  of  the  pelting.  I 
tried  to  put  the  point  forcibly,  just  as  I  have  put  it  here.  Tlie  Count  de- 
liberately lowered  one  of  his  horrid  fingers  ;  kept  the  other  up ;  and  went 
on— 4ode  over  me,  as  it  were,  without  even  the  common  coachmanlike 
attention  of  crying  "  Hi  I"  before  he  knocked  me  down. 

"  Follow  my  thought  once  more,  if  yon  please,"  he  resumed.  "  My  first 
object  yon  have  heard.  My  seocHid  object  in  comiog  to  this  house  is  to  do 
what  Miss  Halcombe's  illness  has  prevented  her  from  doing  for  herself. 
My  large  expenenee  is  consulted  on  all  difficult  matters  at  Blackwater 
Park;  and  my  fitiendly  advico  was  requested  on  the  interesting  subject  oi 
your  letter  to  Miss  Halcombe,  I  understood  at  once — ^for  my  sympathies 
are  youjr  sympathies — why  you  wished  to  see  her  here,  before  you  pledged 
yourself  to  inviting  Lady  Glyde.  Tou  are  most  right,  sir,  in  hesiteting  to 
receive  the  wife,  until  you  are  quite  certein  that  the  husband  will  not  eXeit 
his  authority  to  reolahn  her.  I  agree  to  that.  I  also  agree  that  such 
delicate  explanations  as  this  difficulty  involves,  are  not  explanations  which 
can  be  properly  disposed  of  by  writing  only.  My  presence  here  (to  my 
own  great  inoonvenience)  is  the  proof  that  I  speak  sincerely.  As  for  the 
explanations  themselves,  I«-Fosco — I  who  know  Sir  Percival  much  better 
than  Miss  Haloomb